Tracy Letts' creepy, compelling "Bug" at the Boston Playwrights' Theatre will have you scratching, but you'll be rooting for its paranoid protagonists: a Gulf War vet with a whopper of a conspiracy theory, and a down on her luck alcoholic/cokehead with a heart of gold. After all, it's not so crazy to have suspicions about what our men and women were exposed to in the Gulf...and it's not such a big stretch from agent provocateur to Agent Orange.
The play is a real head-turner --- as in page-turner. I couldn't wait for intermission to be over to see what would happen to this sweet, really odd twosome. These two desperate souls connect so sympathetically the play would work without the Wagnerian ending.
The Boston Theatre Works production electrified the stage, mainly because of the extraordinary performances of the two leads: Augustus Kelly as the hapless vet afflicted with"formication" and Adrianne Krstansky as the lonely, haunted refugee from too many "laundromats and dairy queens". Letts covers all the bases by making the couple both cokeheads --- feeling "buggy" is a symptommof cocaine overdose.
Direcor Eric Engel ups the emotional ante with eery bright lighting emerging from the bathroom of Susan Zeeman Rogers' seedy motel-room set; with each character on either side of that bathroom door so all we see are his back and her expressive feet; and with sunds (Jeremy Wilson) like the train roar which feels like it's heading right into the audience. Kudos to lighting designer Deb Sullivan and to costume designer Seth Bodie for the gritty atmosphere.
Christopher J. Hagberg plays the sinister Dr. Sweet, and Trey Burvant is so scary as an ex-con he makes your skin crawl, even without those blood-sucking aphids, and Kelly Lawman kicks butt as Krstansky's buddy.
I would have been happy with a simple love story, but "Bug" is much more. It's a cautionary tale four our time. It.s Brutal. It's funny. It's infectious. Catch it before it closes.