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New York City - Theatre

Wendy R. Williams'
Theatre Column

Greetings Theater Lovers,

This month I saw only one theatrical performance, Mayumana's Be at the Union Square Theatre at 100 East 17th Street, New York, NY 10003. Be is (to quote the press release), "the internationally acclaimed rhythm-dance performance art phenomenon from Israel." Playing at the former home of Slava's Snow Show, Be rocked the stage. The actors are full of energy; they are marvelous dancers, drummers and comedians. Be is yet another entry into the category of stage shows like Stomp and Blue Man Group, shows that can be enjoyed even if you do not speak a word of English.

Tickets for Be are scaled at $20 -$60 and are now available by calling 212-505-0700, or through Ticketmaster.com at 212-307-4100.

I also saw the movie version of Tracy Lett's stage play, Bug. The film stars: Ashley Judd as Agnes White; Michael Shannon as Peter Evans (he was in the original play); Lynn Collins as R.C.; Brian F. O'Byrne as Dr. Sweet; and Harry Connick Jr as Jerry Goss.

Lynn Collins, Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon in Bug

I reviewed Bug when it played at New York's Barrow Street Theater in 2004. Here is a copy of my review.


Tracy Lett's
The Barrow Street Theatre

Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams

Tracy Lett's Bug is one bugged-out show. Filled with varmints and crawling with vermin, it is one of the best shows I have seen off Broadway.

As you enter the theater there is a wonderful advertisement in the ticket office warning that the show contains nudity, violence and cigarette smoking. And the show certainly contains a lot of nudity and violence, but it is so fast paced the characters have little time to smoke until the very end - but I don't want to give away too much too soon.

The eerie theme is launched in the beginning when we see the drugged-out
Agnes (the wonderful Shannon Cochran) standing in the doorway of a seedy Oklahoma City motel, casually smoking a cigarette, listening to the trucks whizzing by as an ignored phone rings in the background. She then leaves the door wide open while she looks for something to drink in the bathroom. This directorial choice is a great metaphor for the rest of the story, for Agnes is always forgetting to "shut the door."

Soon her lesbian friend RC (the talented Amy Landecker) arrives with Peter (the amazing Michael Shannon) in tow. When RC leaves, she leaves Peter (as a present?), and once Peter is in the door, he never leaves. And with Peter come the bugs, with the bugs comes the paranoia and with the paranoia comes the apocalypse.

Tracy Letts has written a very provocative script that is both scary and darkly funny. And Dexter Ballard has done a great job directing; he really knows how to use the space between the lines. The lighting (Tyler Micoleau) and set (Lauren Helpern) were right on the money; I have stayed in those motels and they nailed it. The talented cast also features Reed Birney, who does a clever turn as the smiling Dr. Sweet (a clever choice of a name) and Michael Cullen who portrays Agnes's ex-husband Goss. Mr. Cullen does a fabulous job playing the menacing and perplexed Goss. So go see Bug, it's "buggin'.

The play was a London import which went on to win the 2003-2004 Obie Award for Outstanding Performance for the acting company: Shannon Cochran as Agnes White; Michael Shannon as Peter Evans; Michael Cullen as Jerry Goss; Amy Landecker as R. C.; and Reed Birney as Dr. Sweet.

The new film is faithful to the stage play (Mr. Betts also wrote the screenplay). The film, however, has been advertised as a horror film instead of the sophisticated black comedy it really is. When I saw the film yesterday, there was a small audience, but halfway through the film the audience caught on and began to laugh. But it was guilty or surprised laughter, the way people laugh at something that is really not supposed to be funny; after all the film ads said it was a horror film.

According to press reports, Tracy Letts fought to have the fairly unknown Michael Shannon reprise his role as Peter and thank goodness he won - Mr. Shannon is incredible. As for Ashley Judd replacing the wonderful Shannon Cochran (from both the London and New York play), amazingly it worked. Ashley Judd gives the performance of her career. And Harry Connick Jr. is quite a revelation as the wife-beating Goss.

So remember Bug, the film. Strange advertising campaign or not, I predict it will find its audience in the DVD world and become a cult classic.


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