Theatre review: Bug will make your skin crawl

The Hardline Productions presentation of Bug will make your skin crawl.

Escaping a life of abuse, Agnes has found herself holed up in a rundown motel somewhere in rural Oklahoma.  Of course her past comes back to haunt her as her abusive ex-husband Jerry makes an appearance and she finds herself drawn to the seemingly quiet and unimposing Peter.  As the days unfold filled with alcohol and drugs, Agnes gets caught up in Peter’s paranoia about medical experiments he has undergone at the hands of the military.

There is a slow burn in Bug through to its bizarre and skin crawling climax that is exhilarating, made even more exciting by some terrific performances.  And while the circumstances that these characters find themselves may be foreign and the story somewhat predictable, the cast here so fully embraces Letts’s strange world that we’re content to go along for this wild ride.

Jay Clift and Genevieve Fleming in a scene from the Hardline Productions presentation of Bug. Photo by Matt Reznek.

Jay Clift and Genevieve Fleming in a scene from the Hardline Productions presentation of Bug. Photo by Matt Reznek.

As Agnes, Genevieve Fleming finds great intensity in her character, simultaneously longing, hopeful and rejected.  She is operating on so many levels here, creating many true moments in this odd story, knowing that it is just as much about reaction as it about action.  The scene in which she kicks her best friend RC out of her life is so genuinely realized it elicits a physical reaction.

Jay Clift as the psychotic Peter realizes the slow burn of his character.  Quiet, unimposing and almost loveable at the start, his descent into his paranoia is at times breathtaking.  Bob Frazer as the abusive husband is simply riveting each time he steps on stage complete, with a malevolence that simmers just below the surface and a look that could kill.

In real estate location is everything and Hardline, who are no strangers to some of Vancouver’s grungiest indie theatre spaces, make good use of The Shop Theatre with a realistic and depressing set design from Jenn Stewart.  Matthew MacDonald-Bain adds some equally bizarre music to the proceedings, not the least of which is the choice of the final song.

Forget Meryl’s scenery chewing currently going on in the big screen adaptation of Tracy Letts’s August: Osage County, if you really want to experience some great acting filled with subtlety and intensity then you must visit this roach motel.  And just wait until you find out what happens at check-out time.

Four out of five stars.Bug

By Tracy Letts.  Directed by Sean Harris Oliver.  On stage at The Shop Theatre through Saturday, March 1, 2014.  Visit for tickets and information.

Mark Robins on Google+

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