Ignition’s show packed with tension

It’s not fun watching somebody descend into a frightening obsessive frenzy, but it can make for a riveting, intense story just the same.

Ignition Theatre’s first show of the season, Bug, hold plenty of freaky, tense, uncomfortable, gripping and compelling moments – thanks largely to terrific casting and a story that effectively gets ‘under’ one’s skin.

The play, which has been described as a psycho-thriller, was penned by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning playwright Tracy Letts. It finishes up its run Oct. 29 on the Nickle Studio Stage at the Memorial Centre.

Curtain is 7:30 p.m.

Director Matt Grue, as always, can be counted on to draw the finest out of his cast while skillfully shaping a memorable show with plenty of raw emotion and dramatic power.

Tilly Van Keule plays loner Agnes who is living in a motel on the outskirts of Oklahoma City. Along comes mysterious, almost blank (at first) Gulf War veteran Peter (Paul Sutherland) who ends up staying overnight. A strange, unhealthy relationship grows as Peter grows increasing strange himself – obsessed with the belief the motel room is infested with bugs.

Van Keule is stunning as Agnes, who goes from confused and lonely to distraught to coming completely undone — to put it mildly. Sutherland is also perfect as Peter. Like Agnes, he’s isolated and lost; but also terrorized by obsession and a fear that he’s being monitored by sinister outside forces.

The two start to unhinge as they dig deep to uncover the source of the pests – their pasts, stories and ‘experiences’ surface wildly.

And adding to the unease is the continual appearances of Agnes’ violent, unpredictable ex-husband Goss (Jeremy Weddell).

Rounding out the exceptional cast are Tara Rorke as Agnes’ friend R.C. who tries to straighten her pal out to no avail and the always entertaining Paul Boultbee as Dr. Sweet, who we aren’t really quite sure about either. Boultbee has a way of portraying characters with charming, dubious natures. He’s a natural, and although his role is small, it’s outstanding.

That brings us back to the magnetic ‘thread’ that runs through the tale – what’s real and what isn’t real? Is Peter completely delusional, or perhaps parts of his stories and experience are imaginary and other parts aren’t.

What about the child of Agnes and Goss who apparently vanished years back. Is he dead? Hidden away? Questions hover in the air with no answers, fueling the momentum of the disturbing plot.

Enhancing this play enormously was the remarkable sound design and original music written by Dustin Clark. Patrick Beagan’s lighting design – emphasizing the dizzying swirl of emotions spilling out onstage – is also intrinsic to the play’s power and success.

On another note, it’s an adjustment getting used to Ignition Theatre’s new space at the Memorial Centre – the Nickle Studio of course doesn’t offer nearly the room they had at The Matchbox. But it still somehow felt spacious with seating set up like it was at the former theatre, and the stage and set certainly weren’t affected.

A reminder — Bug carries a discretionary warning for coarse language and adult themes.

Tickets are $22 for adults and $18 for students and seniors and are available by calling Ignition Theatre at 403-341-6500 or going online at www.ignitiontheatre.ca. They can also be purchased at the door.

Next up for Ignition Theatre is Big Shot, written by Jon Lachlan Stewary and directed by Bradley Moss. The play runs Nov. 17-20.