Are you feeling a bit paranoid these days? Not surprised when some new governmental indiscretion is brought to light? Afraid that they might actually be out to get you? Are you plagued by a horde of bugs that seem to be coming from under your skin?  

Wait, what?  

2004_07_artsbug.jpgIf you haven’t seen Bug by Tracy Letts yet, we here at Gothamist think you should. It’s a paranoid schizophrenic’s dream show, and it’s also one of the best plays we’ve seen in a long, long time. Blackly comedic, you find yourself laughing until you realize all this absurdity might actually be real.  

Set in a motel room in Oklahoma City, it follows Agnes – a drug-addled woman hiding out from her husband, Goss, who’s just been released from prison – and her brief but intense relationship with the quirky and enigmatic (but sincere) Peter. When Peter wakes one night after being bitten by a bug, he and Agnes nakedly search their bed for the critters. Whether the bug Peter finds is real or not (it’s too small for Agnes to see), we never really know. But soon they both fully believe that they’re infested, which leads to a confession – which I’m not going to spoil for you. But this revelation sets them both off on a string of highly implausible conspiracy theories, linking the government with The People’s Temple massacre in Jonestown, Tim McVeigh, and the Oklahoma City Bombing. It’s laughable, except . . .  

Who is the guy who shows up, first purporting to be Peter’s psychiatrist and finally proving that he knows more about Agnes than he has any reason to? Why are helicopters continually heard hovering outside? Who is it that keeps calling on the phone, but won’t speak? 

There are moments in this play that actually took our breath away, and that’s saying something. The production’s commitment to detail – their subtle use of real-time, and surprisingly effective special effects – makes it no surprise that they won the Lucille Lortell award for Best Play, as well as two OBIE’s for Outstanding Ensemble and Outstanding Creative Team. It’s a pleasure to find a playwright and director producing a live thriller that actually exhilarates and frightens. It makes for an incredible, if itchy, night out.  

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[This post was written by Patrick Shearer, another new addition to Gothamist Arts. Patrick is a producer and director working in the Off-Off-Broadway theatre scene with Nosedive Productions. Why “Nosedive”? Because “Artistic and Financial Failure Productions” wouldn’t fit on the postcard. When he’s not writing, or doing theatre, he spends way too much time checking the visitor stats on his blog.]