“Bug” first debuted in London and then moved to New York, winning numerous awards, including the Lucille Lortel, Obie Awards and a New York Times Top 10 of 2004. For its Los Angeles run, the New York Off-Broadway hit cast remains: Amy Landecker, Andrew Elvis Miller, Laura Niemi, Andrew Hawkes and Rob Nagle.
The production is a high quality, creepy romp through the life of Agnes (Landecker), a working woman living in a motel whose abusive ex-husband is being released from jail. Her lesbian friend R.C. (Niemi) comes over one night before heading out to a party and leaves her random friend, Peter (Miller) behind to keep Agnes company in her lonely life.
The two take to each other warmly from the get-go. Agnes' frightening ex-con ex-husband Gos (Hawkes) arrives and expects things to be as they were before his lock-up.
The character work is terrific. Whether or not you run in circles with characters such as those presented here, you can't help but appreciate their accuracy and natural vulnerabilities. And to those who always thought such characters were stereotypes of people you weren't sure existed, you'll find yourselves sympathizing nonetheless.
Most awkward is the scene in which Peter and Agnes first spend the night sleeping together, when Peter awakes cussing out the insects that seem to be biting him in the bed. The two go back and forth between the cause of the bite marks, the location of the bugs and the type of insects running across the bed.
So what's so awkward? The actors are stark-raving naked. I would estimate the scene lasts at least 10 minutes.
Miller and Landecker deliver true and funny performances while standing amongst all, with no clothing and no screen to mask them from the voyeuristic audience. Penis, breasts, ass and vagina distract for a while, until we find ourselves laughing at the ridiculousness of the moment. And suddenly, we are already way too close to these characters to ever quite let them go.
Each cast member is wonderful. Landecker is a true pleasure to watch from beginning to end, as we journey along during her trek towards true love. We want this relationship to work out so much, after meeting her abusive and moronic ex-husband.
Hawkes plays Gos, a despicable character, well enough to have us catch ourselves laughing along with him at times. He truly finds the grounded center of this asshole of a man, which allows us to fear him all the more now that we have seen his reality before us.
In R.C., Niemi creates a fun-loving but hard-assed chick who, amidst all this ruckus, is fighting for custody of her female lover's child, so they can be a happy family all together.
Every aspect of this production is top-notch and noteworthy: the set, the blocking, the lighting and sound, the special effects, all of it. Each element grows, with the plot, a little more bizarre as time rolls on.
The writing is specific. Each character is written with such detail that we willingly accompany them along their through-lines, and, when it's over, we wish we could hang out with them even longer.
“Bug” has an ending that keeps you thinking and conversing with fellow audience members. Government conspiracy theories, tracking devices, unique blood-eating aphids, missing children – there are too many factors involved to get into without giving anything away.
But you may be sure that you are in for a titillating ride, one that amuses and befuddles. Bug , the motion picture, is set to open later this month. We can only hope that Hollywood will not screw up this masterpiece.
The good news is playwright Tracy Letts adapted the screenplay himself. So this writer's advice is, see the play first, since we know it's a winner, and let's hope the film is anywhere near as brilliant.
Coast Playhouse is located 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., in West Hollywood. Show times: Thurs-Sat, 8 p.m.; Sun, 3 p.m. Tickets are $34.95. For more information, call (323) 650-8509 or visit www.lostangelstheatre.com