By SUE SUCHYTA
Tracy Letts’ “Bug,” a psychological horror story, runs 8 p.m. June 16 to 18, 23 to 25, and 2 p.m. June 19 and 26 in the MacKenzie Fine Arts Center on the Henry Ford College main campus, 5101 Evergreen in Dearborn.
Tickets are $15, and can be purchased at theatre.hfcc.edu. The show contains violence and other adult content, and no one under 18 will be admitted.
A drug-addicted cocktail waitress, Agnes, who is hiding from her violent ex-husband, Jerry, is introduced to a paranoid veteran, Peter, by her lesbian biker friend R.C.
In the seedy hotel room they share, Peter draws Agnes into his delusions and conspiracy theories as sanity slips away from her.
Directed by George Popovich, the cast includes Zach Ross of Dearborn as Peter Evans, Samantha Kenbeek of Dearborn Heights as Agnes, Dustin Cehaich of Taylor as Dr. Sweet, Caitlin Castle of Brownstown Township as R.C. and Alan Rezzonica of Grosse Ile Township as Jerry Goss.
Kenbeek said the play’s simulated drug use pushes the envelope of theater performance beyond what she has previously experienced, and contains gore familiar to fans of the horror genre.
To better understand her character, Kenbeek said she has researched addiction to gain some insight.
Ross said his character is a wanderer who wants to connect with Agnes but who tends to hold himself apart from her and others.
“He doesn’t want to dig deep and show her the inner mechanisms of everything’s that is going on,” he said. “Ultimately things start to progress with Agnes and Peter, and when he starts opening up its a really cool moment for not only the audience but for character development between Agnes and I, and to see how we morph and bond with each other on stage.”
He said the character of Peter doesn’t want to make an emotional connection that will cause him to show her too much of what he is.
“He’s very introverted, and he has a past that he is running from,” Ross said. “He is trying to make sure all of that doesn’t explode out of him, so there is a lot that he has to work with. It is a very complex character.”
Ross said he spoke with a family member who experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, and he researched schizophrenia and other dark aspects of humanity.
“I’ve always been kind of a little bit of an introvert, so it was very easy for me to mesh with Peter and just be him on stage,” Ross said.
Ross hopes audiences leave with a better understanding of mental illness.
Castle plays Agnes’ best friend, who wants to protect her from an abusive ex-husband and now Peter.
“Because it is so different, because it has got those dark elements, things that you don’t see in your typical theater play, it’s not some upbeat musical, that appeals to a lot of people more than you would think,” Castle said, “because they just haven’t seen it and they want to see how it goes down, how it is done live.”
Cehaich said audiences figure out who his character is as the play progresses.
“The way I believe is I am his therapist, I was the one who was closest to him that tried to help him and that is why I have come now,” Cehaich said, “to try and help him to where he will be safe.”
He said it is at a core a love story inter-meshed with the messier elements of life with which people learn to deal
“Paranoia, and worry and anxiety are all very real stuff that people have to deal with,” Cehaich said, “and that’s what I really like about the show. If you like stuff you are not used to, that happens to people you never see, come see this show.”
Popovich said “Bug” exposes theater students, many of whom will transfer to four-year university acting programs, to darker drama.
“We are doing this for the students because once you get out of this area, and went to Chicago or New York, they do plays like this,” he said. “If somebody really wants to do this stuff, they have to have a wide repertoire, and they have to be versatile.”
“Bug” will be adjudicated by the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival based in New York City.
For more information about “Bug,” go to theatre.hfcc.edu/productions/2016/bug.
SHAKESPEARE ROYAL OAK TRANSFORMS MURDERS INTO “MURDER HE WROTE”
Shakespeare Royal Oak will host “Murder He Wrote” at 6:30 p.m. June 24, recasting Shakespeare’s most famous murder scenes into an interactive comedy in the style of the murder-mystery television show “Murder She Wrote.”
Written by WJBK-TV weekend anchor Charlie Langton, the annual summer fundraiser will be at the Royal Oak Farmers Market, 316 E. 11 Mile Road.
Tickets are $40, and available online at shakespeareroyaloak.com, and include a strolling dinner, silent auction, mask-making and the show.
Singer and songwriter Mia Green also performs.
“We are dedicated to raising money the old fashioned way,” founder and executive director Edward Nahhat said, “by giving folks a great show, good food and a friendly atmosphere.”