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REVIEW IN SHORT: Star Bar Players' 'Bug'

By: T.D. MOBLEY-MARTINEZ
February 26, 2011
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photo - Jonathan Margheim and Alysabeth Clements Mosley star in the Star Bar Bar production of "Bug." Photo by
Jonathan Margheim and Alysabeth Clements Mosley star in the Star Bar Bar production of "Bug." Photo by  

Performance: Feb. 25

Cast: Alysabeth Clements Mosley, Jonathan Margheim, George Spencer, Elizabeth Kahn Lanning, Greg Lanning

Director: Dylan Mosley

Plot:Agnes (Clements Mosley) escapes her sad, lonely life in an Oklahoma motel room when mysterious Peter Evans (Margheim) presents an alternate – if entirely paranoid and clinically unhinged – way of looking at the world.

The challenge: Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tracy Letts pulls no punches and “Bug,” which was adapted into a film directed by William Friedkin in 2006, is no exception. A successful production must walk a pencil-thin line between funny and intense without leaving believable behind at the last truck stop.

The problem: I was impressed with Clements Mosley and Margheim's ground zero performances. Frankly, it's hard to imagine two actors more committed to such a raw journey into all-out crazy. But this play requires high-test focus and delicate pacing, which is sporadically lost in a fast downward spiral. It's hard to care about Agnes' fate, but if we don't, the intensity, the pathos and ultimately, the brutality of Lett's explosive ending reads as comedy.

The caveat:I saw the film years ago and walked away with similar issues. It's hard to imagine how any director could conquer the distancing nature of the second half of the script – or the screenplay, which was also written by Letts.

The fabulous:A terrific minimal set with all the right kitsche by Jonathan Eberhardt and Heather Clark. Same with Sammy Gleason's sly costumes: You can't get much more Oklahoma than those low-rise Wranglers. I'm always astonished by how much Star Bar does with so little. They don't have a lot to do, but Kahn Lanning, as Agnes' best friend, and Spencer, as the ex-con ex-husband, are compelling whenever they hit the stage. I look forward to seeing more from them.

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