Monday, August 29, 2005

Red Stitch Actors Theatre: Bug by Tracy Letts

Bug by Tracy Letts. Directed by Martin White. Designed by Anna Cordingley. Lighting by Stelios Karagiannis. Sound design by Gus Macmillan. Red Stitch Actors Theatre. Rear 2 Chapel St, St Kilda, until September 24.

This is one of those Star Trek Holodeck plays where you're always conscious of the theatre walls behind the set. Behind each door is a dark void. Characters exit and vanish utterly. They don't have a life outside the tiny bedsit set. They only exist when they're "on".

But, for once, that's not an accident or a mistake. This is an incredibly claustrophobic yarn about sexually-transmitted paranoia.

Peter (a 'survivor' of the first Gulf War) and Agnes (the estranged wife of a jailed crim) hook up after they're introduced by Agnes's goldilocks lesbian friend Ronnie (Ella Caldwell).

He's paranoid about the bugs and health problems he's sure he has picked up in the Middle East; he's certain he's been experimented upon by his government and the US Military. And she's (rightly) paranoid about her violent, irrational beast of a husband who has just been released from prison.

The scene is set, literally, by designer Anna Cordingley -- who gives us a wedge of a squalid little single-bedded motel room -- and lighting designer Stelios Karagiannis. Together, they work magic. The room has a life of its own, it hums and thrums into life and pitch death.

Director Martin White sets a cracking pace, lines trip and tumble across one another, and the humour is completely stripped from this wacko X-Files thriller. It's a wild and unsubtle ride, but the cast of five give it everything. And it's a credit to David Whiteley (Peter) and Kat Stewart (Agnes) that they don't burn out by interval.

Joe Clements' cameo as the crim husband is ferocious. Awesome. It's a pity the character isn't as convincing as the performance.

This review appeared in the Wednesday August 31 2005 edition of the Herald Sun.

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