Directed by Bryan Fonseca
Through Aug. 7
At the end of Bug, I found it was hard to describe the play other than by repeating, "That was f****** weird," over and over again. The sailor-esque language, constant drug use, freaky paranoia, Michael Shelton running around in the buff and the overwhelming urge to take a shower were just too much to digest at first. But this was the cast's goal, so, mission accomplished.
Michael Shelton and Diane Timmerman in Phoenix Theatre's 'Bug'
The story revolves around Agnes (Diane Timmerman), who is living in a dumpy motel room somewhere in Oklahoma. Her friend R.C. (Karen Irwin) brings over a guy she just met, Peter (Shelton), who strikes up a relationship with Agnes. The longer Peter stays with Agnes, the more the room seems to be infested with bugs. The question becomes, where are the bugs coming from?
Shelton as the sketchy Peter has the most interesting role here, and does some of his best work ever, running the gamut from harmless to scary-delusional. Whether he is having a seizure or pulling one of his teeth with a pair of pliers, his intensity and believability are disturbing. Timmerman, as a woman who was ready to be pushed over the edge, follows her wacked-out boyfriend's lead, and descends into the role of schizophrenic paranoid with ease.
Though not exactly what you would call a "comedy," the show has its moments. Crystal meth is smoked almost constantly, and Agnes, pipe in hand, after being told the fire alarm has radioactive ingredients, comments, no wonder I feel so bad all the time. Subtle and dark, but funny.
Shelton and Timmerman are joined by Karen Irwin as R.C., Ricardo Melendez as ex-husband Goss and LeBron Benton as Dr. Sweet. Of the supporting cast, their time on stage is well-spent. Ambiance - with lighting designed by director Bryan Fonseca, set designed by James Gross and sound design by Brian Hartz - helps the play get under your skin.
Bug continues at the Phoenix Theatre, 749 N. Park Ave., through Aug. 7. For obvious reasons, the show is for mature audiences. Call 635-PLAY or go to www.phoenixtheatre.org.