Raleigh Ensemble Players’ Halloween Show Is “Bug,” an Eerie Psychological Thriller by Tracy Letts

"Bug" opens on Oct. 28th in the REP Upstairs Studio at 213 Fayetteville St. in Raleigh
"Bug" opens on Oct. 28th in the REP Upstairs Studio at 213 Fayetteville St. in Raleigh, NC

For its Halloween show, Raleigh Ensemble Players will present  Bug, prize-winning playwright Tracy Letts’ award-winning 2004 Off-Broadway hit for mature audiences, on Oct. 28-31 and Nov. 4-7, 11-14, and 18-20 in the REP Upstairs Studio at 213 Fayetteville St. in the heart of downtown Raleigh, NC. Letts won the 2008 Tony Award® for Best Play and the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, plus the 2008 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, for August: Osage County. Letts was also nominated for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Man from Nebraska.

Bug is a really fascinating show … an eerie psychological thriller that’s really fun for Halloween and the fall season,” claims Raleigh Ensemble Players’ managing director Gary Williams. “All of the action takes place in a motel room on the outskirts of Oklahoma City, and the production designers have done a great job of creating an intimate environment where the audience are voyeurs watching the action. The realistic set may remind many of the single-wide trailer that was the set for REP’s 2005 production of Letts’ Killer Joe.”

Williams adds, “There are only 25 seats available for each performance, so reservations are recommended.”

According to Dramatists Play Service, Inc.:

“Set in a seedy Oklahoma City motel room, [Bug] centers on the meeting between Agnes White [played at REP by Leanne Norton Heintz], a divorced waitress with a fondness for cocaine and isolation, and Peter Evans [Jesse Janowsky], a soft-spoken Gulf War drifter introduced to her by her lesbian friend, R.C. [Page Purgar].

“Agnes stays at a hotel in hopes of avoiding her physically abusive ex-husband, Jerry Gross [Peyton Myrick], who was just released from prison. At first, she lets Peter sleep platonically on her floor, but not long after she promotes him to the bed.

“Matters become more complicated as Jerry eagerly returns to the woman he loves to beat her up, expecting to resume their relationship. On top of that, there’s a hidden bug infestation problem that has both Agnes and Peter dealing with scathing welts and festering sores — which has Peter believing this is the result of experiments conducted on him during his stay at an Army hospital. Their fears soon escalate to paranoia, conspiracy theories and twisted psychological motives.”

Jesse Janowsky and Leanne Norton Heintz star as Peter and Agnes in "Bug" (REP photo)
Jesse Janowsky and Leanne Norton Heintz star in "Bug" (REP photo)

In addition to the actors named above, the Raleigh Ensemble Players cast for Bug also includes John Jimerson as Dr. Sweet. The REP creative team for Bug includes director C. Glen Matthews, production designers Miyuki Su and Thomas Mauney, makeup designer Sabrina Aldridge (a Meredith College student), sound designer Becca Easley, fight director Jason Armit, and stage manager Erin Lerch.

After making its world premiere in 1996 in London, Bug made its Off-Broadway debut, directed by Dexter Bullard, on Feb. 29, 2004 at the Barrow Street Theatre, where it played for 384 performances before closing on Jan. 30, 2005. The show starred Shannon Cochran as Agnes, Michael Shannon as Peter, Michael Cullen as Jerry, Amy Landecker as R.C., and Reed Birney as Dr. Sweet. Among other awards, Bug won the 2004 Lucille Lortel Awards for Outstanding Play and Outstanding Director and the 2003–04 OBIE Awards for Outstanding Performance (Shannon Cochran, Michael Shannon, Michael Cullen, Amy Landecker, and Reed Birney) and Outstanding Design Team.

The 2006 motion-picture version of Bug, directed by William Friedkin from a screenplay by Tracy Letts, starred Ashley Judd as Agnes, Michael Shannon as Peter, Harry Connick Jr. as Jerry, Lynn Collins as R.C., Brían F. O’Byrne as Dr. Sweet, and Neil Bergeron as Man in Grocery Store. The film won the 2006 Directors’ Fortnight Award, presented by the International Federation of Film Critics, at the Cannes Film Festival.

The New York Times called Bug “obscenely exciting … top-flight craftsmanship. Buckle up and brace yourself….” The Associated Press said Bug is a “thoroughly outrageous and thoroughly entertaining play…. [T]he possibility of enemies, real and imagined, to squash has never been more theatrical.” The Newark, NJ Star-Ledger dubbed Bug as “a wonderfully lurid new thriller” and the Hollywood Reporter called it “a riveting thriller of paranoia and an instant guilty pleasure.”

Raleigh Ensemble Players presents BUG at 8 p.m. Oct. 28-30; 7:30 p.m. Oct. 31; 8 p.m. Nov. 4-6 and 11-13; 7 p.m. Nov. 7 and 14; and 8 p.m. Nov. 18-20 in the REP Upstairs Studio, 213 Fayetteville St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.

TICKETS: $20 ($15 students and educators, seniors, and active-duty military personnel), except $10 Student Rush Tickets (available 10 minutes before curtain).

BOX OFFICE: 919/832-9607, gorep@juno.com, or http://www.realtheatre.org/box_office.html.

SHOW: http://www.realtheatre.org/box_office.html.

PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.realtheatre.org/.

PARKING/DIRECTIONS: http://realtheatre.org/directions.html.

NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio describe the 8 p.m. Nov. 5th performance.


The Play: http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=3452 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bug_(play) (Wikipedia), and http://www.lortel.org/LLA_archive/index.cfm?search_by=show&id=3442 (Internet Off-Broadway Database).

The Film: http://bugthemovie.com/ (official website) and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0470705/ (Internet Movie Database).

The Playwright: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tracy_Letts (Wikipedia), official website), http://www.lortel.org/LLA_archive/index.cfm?search_by=people&first=Tracy&last=Letts&middle= (Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=379129 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0504832/ (Internet Movie Database).


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.

By Robert W. McDowell

Robert W. McDowell is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer, editor, and critic. He has written theater, film, book, and music previews and reviews for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, and Classical Voice of North Carolina, all based in Raleigh. In 1980-91, he covered business, industry, government, and education for (We the People of) North Carolina magazine, published monthly by N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry. In April 2001, McDowell started Robert's Reviews, a FREE weekly e-mail newsletter that provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of the performing arts in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. Triangle Review is the latest-and-greatest version of McDowell's original newsletter. (To start your FREE subscription, e-mail robertm748[at]aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) From December 1980 until September 2017, McDowell served on the board of directors of The Cinema, Inc., a Raleigh-based nonprofit film society formed in 1966. He currently publishes a weekly list of FREE advance screenings of movies in the Triangle area. (To have your e-mail address added to this FREE list, e-mail robertm748[at]aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.) McDowell also co-edited and supervised the production of Jim Valvano's Guide to Great Eating (JTV Enterprises, 1984), a 224-page sports celebrity cookbook; and he served as a fact checker for Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead (Pocket Books, 1991).