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Topic: Review of "BUG"

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AuthorTopic:   Review of "BUG"
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posted: 9/25/2004 at 1:15:54 PM ET
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Stepping Into a Battle for Survival

Published: September 26, 2004

"AGNES WHITE first appears as a silhouette, framed in the doorway of a dark, ratty motel room. The smoke from her cigarette wafts through the beams of passing headlights into her disheveled hair. Wine glass in hand, she's watching the cars go by. You can tell she's been in this desolate part of the country outside Oklahoma City - specifically, in this grim little room with nothing for company but the radio - for a long, long time.

So begins "Bug,'' a thriller by the Chicago playwright Tracy Letts that has been running at the Barrow Street Theater since Feb. 29 and that has been optioned by William Friedkin, director of "The Exorcist.'' The 44-year-old Agnes is onstage for nearly every second of the riveting two-hour drama. It's one of the most strenuous roles on Off Broadway today, requiring full nudity and a grueling battle for survival against an abusive former husband and an army of blood-sucking aphids.

Shannon Cochran, who originated the role at London's Gate Theater in 1996, took it on in New York after Amanda Plummer resigned a day before the first scheduled performance. She received glowing reviews.

Now Kate Buddeke, who played Agnes in 2001 in Chicago, has replaced her. And she faces one of the toughest theatrical challenges: making a role her own after another actor has created a defining performance.

Ms. Cochran was magnificent. Behind the eyes of her Agnes there lurked a million feelings and thoughts rushing past all at once. It was clear she had a vivid inner life to compensate for her extremely poor outer one and that deep down she was wide-eyed, optimistic and as doomed as a friendly forest creature. While the lithe Ms. Cochran looked fetching in hot pants, when she removed them she suddenly appeared fresh, her body exuding a fragile luminosity that silenced the theater.

Even lubricated by vodka and cocaine, her Agnes was socially awkward. She spoke too quickly and then not enough. Agnes's attraction to the mysterious Peter made sense, then, as a starcrossed affair between two passionate, isolated people with overactive imaginations. Although from time to time you could still see fear and suspicion flicker across her delicate face, the crazier he seemed, the more she wanted to believe him. There is nothing fragile or doubtful about the Agnes created by Ms. Buddeke, who so brilliantly, hilariously portrayed the brash "strumpet with a trumpet,'' Miss Mazeppa, in last season's revival of "Gypsy.'' While Ms. Buddeke's Agnes is just as lonely as Ms. Cochran's, being alone seems to have taken a far more severe toll. The drugs and booze and late hours have given her a blank stare, bad posture and a resigned, sad presence.

Where Ms. Cochran fidgeted, Ms. Buddeke is still. Where Ms. Cochran flinched at the ringing phone, Ms. Buddeke wearily, warily answers it. She lives in the moment, whatever it brings: being told she's beautiful makes her smile, getting hit makes her cry, being tickled makes her laugh, getting caught up in her lover's ever-intensifying insect war makes her only fleetingly anxious. What she really feels is excitement; she swoons when the new man in her life relates his gulf war conspiracy theory. (Think: "You had me at Tuskeegee.'')

She is giddy about adventure, thrilled that something, even something that might kill her, has finally come her way. Taking nothing away from the skittish, ethereal Agnes of Ms. Cochran, Ms. Buddeke yields a radically different but equally compelling study of what profound loneliness and heavy drug use can do to a woman. What the two Agneses have in common is that it's hard not to like them, and to hope that just this once, they will come out triumphant against evil and ex-husbands and bug bites. Yet you somehow know from that first moment, watching her watch the cars pass by, that even before the infestation, Agnes is outnumbered. "

New York Times



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posted: 9/25/2004 at 2:58:47 PM ET
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God, that is a great review. Yaay!

I soo want to see it!

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posted: 9/25/2004 at 3:11:48 PM ET
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What a great review! Exactly one week till I see it!

"I'm not upset about losing the money, it's losing all the stuff."

PA Fan
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posted: 9/25/2004 at 3:13:32 PM ET
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Way to go Kate!

I saw BUG on Tuesday and highly recommend it. Kate was super as was the rest of the cast. As I told Kate afterward, the play (to me) seemed like an extreme episode from the X-Files (one of my all-time favorite programs). It's not your "usual" thriller but it's a great character study & thought provoking. I think the Times review is very on point as to Kate's Agnes. Too bad it didn't specifically mention Jonno Roberts' (as Peter) performance -- the man knows how to play "creepy!"

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New Jersey

Fav. BP Song: With So Little to be Sure of
Fav. BP Show: Gypsy
Fav. BP Character: Dot
Fav. BP CD: Sondheim Ect.

posted: 9/25/2004 at 4:58:09 PM ET
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Congratulations Kate! Can't wait to see ya on Saturday

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northern VA
posted: 9/26/2004 at 10:02:47 AM ET
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Very,very cool. Congratulations,Kate.


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