While playwright Tracy Letts gets the big screen treatment with August: Osage County, Vancouver audiences will get an opportunity to see another of his Oklahoma-based plays in a more intimate environment as local indie theatre group Hardline Productions takes on Bug.
And while Co-Artistic Director Sean Harris Oliver admits that it isn’t mere coincidence both are playing at the same time, he also says it is as much about finding a piece that speaks either to him, the company, or what an audience might enjoy.
“That is the thing about running an emerging theatre company that I don’t worry about too much,” says Oliver at the choice of Bug as their first show of 2014. “As a theatre producer though that is definitely something to consider because when you do something a little more obscure it is great to have some momentum behind it. It definitely helps that August: Osage County is out there, but we also knew this was a show that we wanted to do.”
Set in a seedy motel in Oklahoma, Bug tells the story of cocktail waitress Agnes who is in hiding from her violent ex-con ex-husband. One night, her lesbian biker friend R.C. introduces her to Peter and the two become immersed in a world of paranoia about the war in Iraq, UFOs, the Oklahoma City bombing, cult suicides and secret government experiments on soldiers.
Helping to set the mood, Hardline finds themselves inside the appropriately named The Shop Theatre as it once was the location of the Playhouse Theatre Company scene shop. While certainly a step up from the aging Gastown space they occupied when they produced their first show in 2010, this new space is still a fitting location for Letts’s story.
“There is something wild and crazy about that spot that will work wonderfully for our show,” says Harris. “It is a challenge a lot of theatre companies have in Vancouver, but it adds to the element of fun when everything is little crazy.”
With a location and story that may push some audiences outside their comfort zone, it is not difficult to see why a company like Hardline, willing to take more risks than some of the larger theatre companies in town, would choose Bug. But Harris says it is also about giving Vancouver audiences something they don’t get a lot of: a thriller that keeps the audience guessing.
“Bug is a thriller that keeps the audience captivated and involved and is constantly having them question what is real in a paranoid sort of way. It is a lot of fun in that sense.”
Along with the conspiracy theories and paranoia experienced by Peter and Agnes, the storyline also includes a custody battle between R.C. and her ex-girlfriend Lavoice that devolves into its own government conspiracy.
“The government begins to lean on R.C. in a spooky paranoid kind of way to get her to do things, all with the possibility of giving custody to Lavoice,” says Harris who admits that while the idea of two lesbians embroiled in a custody battle might seem like old hat for Vancouver audiences today, he points out that Bug was written in 1996 and takes place in a State that still has a long way to go to catch-up when it comes to gay rights.
As for its title, we don’t want to spoil the surprises, but it may have as much to do with the play’s location as does it with those secret government experiments.
Hardline Productions presents Tracy Letts’s Bug at The Shop Theatre February 13 to March 1, 2014. Tickets are available online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com.