At the very least, you'll walk out of Ion Theatre's Bug with the feeling that something's crawling up your back or underneath your skin. If you're the sensitive—or the squeamish—type, you may feel the after-effects of Tracy Letts' lurid paranoid play more profoundly than that.
Claudio Raygoza directs a tense, claustrophobic drama that fills an Oklahoma motel room with fear, blood and hysteria. What begins mainly as "AWOL war vet" Peter's (Steve Froehlich) hysteria soon spreads to low and lonesome Agnes (Hannah Logan), culminating in a finale that leaves the stage too messy for an actors' curtain call.
If Letts' name sounds familiar, it's because he's the guy who wrote the Pulitzer-winning play (and now big-name movie) August: Osage County. Bug, too, was filmed in 2006 with Ashley Judd playing Agnes. Then, as with this Ion production, the line between fantasy and reality, and between love and violence, is blurred. Who and what the bugs are will gnaw at your mind if you give these dark goings-on a chance. Bug's graphic images and the disquieting disintegration of Logan's Agnes and Froehlich's Peter turn the setting into Motel Hell. Check in if you dare.
Bug runs through Feb. 8 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest. $20-$35. iontheatre.com
Another kind of bug, the love bug, takes center stage at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach, which is presenting a curious olio of Kurt Vonnegut adaptations called Who Am I This Time? A folksier than folksy James Leaming anchors the three interconnected tales about amour, each of them set at the fictitious North Crawford Mask & Wig Club in North Crawford, Conn.
The most entertaining of the three is the middle offering, the one actually based on the Vonnegut 1961 short story "Who Am I This Time?" In it, shrinking violets Harry Nash (Jason Maddy) and Helene Shaw (Christina Flynn) comically heat up when playing Stanley Kowalski and wife Stella in a community production of A Streetcar Named Desire.
In general, the lessons about love are familiar and homespun—not what one tends to associate with the man who wrote Slaughterhouse Five. But so it goes.
Who Am I This Time? runs through Feb. 2 at North Coast Repertory Theatre. $37-$54. northcoastrep.org
Bethany: The West Coast premiere of a drama about a downon-her-luck car saleswoman who squats in a foreclosed home as she tries to reunite with her daughter. Opens Jan. 25 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
Crumbs from the Table of Joy: It's 1950 in Brooklyn, and a grieving black widower has found puritanical religion, uprooted his teenage daughters from Florida and married a white German. Opens Jan. 24 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. moxietheatre.com
The Foreigner: A comedy about a sad Brit, a guest at a Georgia fishing lodge, who pretends to speak no English so he doesn't have to talk to anyone and ends up having to save the lodge from the Ku Klux Klan. Opens Jan. 24 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
The Fox on the Fairway: A country-club president bets on a golf tournament but loses his ringer to the other side and replaces him with a young employee who happens to be awesome at golf. Sounds a little like Caddyshack. Opens Jan. 24 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org
In the Time of the Butterflies: The true story of four sisters who challenged Dominican dictator Generalissmo Rafael Trujillo in 1960. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it runs through Jan. 26 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. sdrep.org
Fiddler on the Roof: A milkman tries to keep his family's traditions in place and marry off his three daughters as the Russian Revolution threatens to gain steam. Presented by Lamb's Players Theatre, it runs through Feb. 2 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. lambsplayers.com
Who Am I This Time? (And Other Conundrums of Love): Three love stories adapted from the early work of author Kurt Vonnegut. Through Feb. 2 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
Bug: A motel-dwelling cocktail waitress begins an affair with a war veteran and takes on his conspiracy theories. Presented by Ion Theatre Company, it runs through Feb. 8 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest. iontheatre.com
Nunsense: A group of nuns stage a variety show to raise money for the burials of the convent dwellers who were poisoned to death by the cook. Presented by Moonlight Stage Productions, it runs through Feb. 9 at Avo Playhouse in Vista. moonlightstage.com
Maple and Vine: The Southern California premiere of a play about an unhappy 21st-century married couple who join a community that completely relives the 1950s. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through Feb. 16 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
Chicago: An oft-produced musical set in the 1920s about two murderous, fame-seeking women who wind up on death row. Through Feb. 23 at Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
Five Course Love: Whimsical love stories play out at tables in five different restaurants. Through Feb. 23 at Scripps Ranch Theatre. scrippsranchtheatre.org
The 39 Steps: This is a return engagement of a comedic, four-actor stage version of the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film, as if performed by Monty Python, with lots of allusions to other Hitchcock classics. Presented by Lamb's Players Theatre, it's ongoing at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. lambsplayers.org
Crime Pays: A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net