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Photograph by Cameron Fabrick
WINGED DEFEAT: Agnes (Jennifer Jane Parsons) makes friends in all the wrong ways with Peter (John Vicino) in 'Bug.'

Under the Skin

In a cheap motel, anything is possible for RTE's 'Bug'

By Emily Grube

RENEGADE Theatre Experiment's first play of the season leaves the audience with questions burrowing under their skin. Tracy Letts, the Pulitzer Prize– and Tony Award–winning playwright of Bug, creates a situation crawling with uncertainty: Are the two main characters infested with bugs, or is it just a delusion? Director Susannah Greenwood transports us to a squalid motel room where no one can be trusted. Over time, as the plague of bugs, or insanity, contaminates the residents, we realize how inviting and beautiful the room used to be before the nesting.

Immediately, when we see Agnes White (Jennifer Jane Parsons) sprawled on an unmade bed, with a crack pipe and a visible bra, we know her. She is the woman on Cops who is nearly impossible to sympathize with. Parsons expertly humanizes this stereotype by allowing glimpses of hope and genuine happiness to shine through. When Peter Evans (John Vicino) appears, he is not your typical, twitching psychopath. His astute demeanor and sinuous movements make the audience feel as if he is able to hear colors. Because of Vicino's relatable rage, we wonder if he is a paranoid schizophrenic, a sane man who the government actually experimented on or an insane man because of the government experiments, throughout the entire production.

The other characters attempt to talk the couple out of their buggy beliefs. Sean C. Murphy plays Agnes' abusive ex-husband Jerry Goss, whose violent outbursts and patronizing tones make you wish that he were the one being hollowed out by bugs. Darcie Lee Grover's portrayal of the masculine lesbian R.C. is animated; however, it seems uneven considering she never uses her physical power to protect her friend Agnes from either man. Finally, Ambera DeLash's Dr. Sweet seems to be more delusion than reality as she fearfully scans the room for snakes and unprofessionally takes a hit from Agnes' pipe.

The special effects were impressive, especially when it came to blood—spat out from a wrenched tooth or gushing from a neck—and sound. At times, the pervasive hum of electricity would cut out, leaving a heavy silence. The eeriest part was that I hadn't noticed that the sound was there to begin with until it was gone. It made me wonder: What else was I not noticing? Bug is a psychological thriller that will have you picking your brain long after you leave the theater. Let's hope you don't find a bug in there.

BUG, a Renegade Theatre Experiment production, plays Thursday–Saturday at 8pm through Sept. 26 at the Historic Hoover Theater, 1635 Park Ave., San Jose. Tickets are $15–$21. (408.351.4440)

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