Review: 'Bug' at The Providence Black Rep

By: Sep. 28, 2008

Written by Tracy Letts, the Tony Award winning writer of August: Osage County, and directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian, Associate Director of The Providence Black Repertory Company (Black Rep), Bug deals with the huge issues like war, loneliness, addiction and love. All of these issues are explored in a tiny, depressing, motel room in the deep south.

In Bug, Agnes (Jackie Davis) is a cocktail waitress, living paycheck to paycheck in a dreary motel just off the highway. Cocaine may be the only thing in her Agnes' life that she actually enjoys. Her ex-husband Jerry (Raidge) has just finished two years in the state penitentiary and she is hoping that he won't find her.

Agnes' friend R.C. (Marie Michaelle Saintil) is coming over and they are going to a party. R.C. has picked up a handsome guy, Peter (Cedric Lilly), somewhere on her way to Agnes' place. Peter and Agnes hit it off and having nowhere else to go, Peter shacks up with Agnes.

As Peter and Agnes get to know each other, we learn that Agnes and her ex-husband Jerry have a son, Lloyd, who mysteriously disappeared when he was six years old. After seven years of searching for Lloyd, Agnes finally gave up looking a couple of years ago. Peter, we learn, is a Gulf War veteran, who suffers from an Asperger's Syndrome-type of condition, as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder along with, what we will come to understand is, a ghastly case of paranoia. The audience finds itself hoping that he suffers from all of those things, because if he doesn't....we are screwed.

In their tiny world of a single motel room, with no stimulation, save a tiny clock radio, crack cocaine and their own imagination, Agnes and Peter's world spins out of control. Slowly at first....but with alarming rapidity. Their room becomes infested with bugs; microscopic, aphid-like bugs that crawl under, and out of, their skin.

Jackie Davis gives a tremendous portrayal of the beautiful, yet world-weary, Agnes. Davis vibrates with Agnes' insecurities and brings an all-important empathy to the character.

In his Black Rep debut, Cedric Lilly gives a first-class performance as Peter. I think that the character could be played with a bit more normality, initially. However, Lilly very effectively creates the claustrophobic atmosphere in Act Two.

Raidge and Marie Michaelle Saintil turn in fine portrayals in their smaller, supporting roles. Bob Jaffe does well in his short-lived role as Dr. Sweet.

Maggie Pilat has designed an effective, utilitarian motel room set. Micah Salkind and Joe Beats' sound design is detail oriented and terrific. From traffic zooming down the highway past the motel to the a/c kicking on and off, they have re-created the sounds one expects to hear in the setting.

Tracy Letts has created a story that travels with an audience beyond the walls of the theater. One, rightfully, questions everything and wonders how we continue on in life when we trust nothing or no one.

In her direction, Megan Sandberg-Zakian metes out the paranoia so as to keep the audience in a relatively comfortable zone, until it is too late. As Act One closes you are left thinking that the story is perhaps a bit crazed, but manageable. No such comfort exists as the play closes.

Bug runs through October 19th at The Providence Black Repertory Company (276 Westminster Street). General admission tickets are $20 with discounted $10 student/senior tickets.

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday curtain times are at 7:00 p.m. The 3:00 p.m. Sunday Matinee at Black Rep is The People's Matinee, a pay what you can performance, followed by a talkback.

For tickets contact Arttix RI at or by phone at 401-621-6123.


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