Director brings the cast of 'Killer Joe' back for 'Bug'
Capital T Theatre stages another dark comedy-thriller by Tracy Letts
Mark Pickell never anticipated that his production of 'Killer Joe' would be the breakout hit of last summer's theater scene.
The play by Pulitzer Prize-winner Tracy Letts is technically a comedy, but its dark violence, unsettling psychological terror and irredeemable characters (Killer Joe is a misogynist policeman who also operates as a ruthless murderer-for-hire) make for a disquieting theater-going experience.
But audiences absolutely loved it.
'Killer Joe' ran for seven sold-out weeks at Hyde Park Theatre, three weeks beyond its scheduled run. And the production netted Pickell and his company, Capital T Theatre, a slew of nominations from the Austin Critics' Table as well as B. Iden Payne Theater Awards.
If a such horrifying comedy was a hit last summer, why not stage its companion piece this summer?
Pickell is doing precisely that with 'Bug,' the equally dark, unnerving comedy that Letts wrote as a follow-up to 'Killer Joe.' Playwright Letts wrote 'Bug' for the ensemble cast of five who made 'Killer Joe' a success when it debuted in the 1990s. And so for the Austin run of 'Bug,' which opens this weekend at Hyde Park Theatre, Pickell has rounded up the same cast from last summer's hit production of 'Killer Joe.' Kenneth Wayne Bradley, Katie deBuys, Joey Hood, Melissa Recalde and Joe Reynolds will reunite.
'Everything just fell into place with this group of actors,' says Pickell, who is directing the production. 'It's an ensemble of talents that just click. We started talking about "Bug" while we were still doing "Killer Joe.'''
'Bug' features an alienated middle-age waitress who is not only victimized by an abusive ex-con ex-husband, but haunted by the kidnapping of her child in a supermarket years ago. Drowning herself in a world of alcohol and cocaine, she hides from life in seedy motel rooms. Then, by chance, she meets a withdrawn (and possibly psychotic) Gulf War veteran, a drifter in search of a friend. The odd couple strike up an interest in each other. Their mutual trait? An obsessive paranoia that they reinforce in each other. And the paranoia starts with the bugs that they are sure infest their motel room.
'"Bug" is a voyeuristic spiral of paranoia, a psychological thriller,' Pickell says. 'The characters are consumed by conspiracy theories.'
But that doesn't mean the play is without humor or some semblance of humanity.
Letts - who won the Pulitzer for the epic 'August: Osage County,' a dark comedy about family reunion and family unraveling - is known for his deft balance of plain-spoken dialogue, sharp wit and a kind of poetry of quotidian language. As tough and crazy as his characters may be, Letts is ultimately sympathetic to them.
'There's still something very familiar about the characters Letts presents, no matter how violent or paranoid they are,' Pickell says. 'Maybe that's why (his plays) have resonance for so many people.'
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturday through June 19
Where: Hyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd St.
Contains nudity, violence and adult situations.