Written byTracy Letts
CharactersPeter Evans
Agnes White
Jerry Goss
Dr. Sweet
Pizza guy
Date premiered20 September 1996
Place premieredLondon, England
Original languageEnglish
GenreBlack comedy
SettingOklahoma, USA

Bug is a play by American playwright Tracy Letts. It was adapted into a film in 2006, with Letts writing the screenplay and Michael Shannon reprising his role as Peter.


Most of the play takes place in a seedy motel room. Lonely cocktail waitress Agnes lives there, hiding from her violent ex-con ex-husband Jerry Goss. One night, her lesbian biker friend R.C. introduces her to Peter, a Gulf War veteran who might be AWOL. She gets involved with Peter, who grows increasingly paranoid about the war in Iraq, UFOs, the Oklahoma City bombing, cult suicides, and then secret government experiments on soldiers — eventually drawing Agnes into his delusions. The play deals with the issues of love, paranoia, conspiracy theories, and Agnes' slow descent into insanity under Peter's influence.

Production history

London premiere

The play originally premiered at the Gate Theatre in Notting Hill, London, England on September 20, 1996.[1] The rehearsals were at A Red Orchid Theatre in Chicago, Illinois.[2]

American premieres

Following its London run, the play made its U.S. debut at Ithaca, New York, followed by the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C.

In Washington, DC, the play underwent a series of revisions and received an American premiere at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in March/April 2000.[3]

The play's Chicago Premiere was at A Red Orchid Theatre, where the play first rehearsed prior to its world premiere in London.[2]


Amanda Plummer resigned from the Off-Broadway premiere 24 hours before its February 21 start date.[5] A notice in the theater box office warned that the show contained nudity, violence and cigarette smoking.[6]


The play premiered at The SBW Stables Theatre in Kings Cross, Sydney, in May 2010, as part of Griffin Theatre Company's Independent Season 2010, in conjunction with Picture This Productions.

Film adaptation

Main article: Bug (2006 film)

A film version of the play was released in 2006 from Lionsgate. It was directed by William Friedkin, and starred Ashley Judd, Harry Connick, Jr and Michael Shannon. Friedkin contacted Tracy Letts after having seen the play, and they cooperated on a screen adaptation. Friedkin described the film as "the most intense piece of work I've ever done".[7] Michael Shannon had played the part on stage. Lionsgate wanted to cast an actor with more name recognition, but Friedkin was determined to have Shannon perform in the film, saying he brought a unique quality to the part.

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2004 Lucille Lortel Awards Outstanding Play Won
Outstanding Director Dexter Bullard Won
Outstanding Lighting Design Tyler Micoleau Won
Outstanding Sound Design Brian Ronan Won
Obie Awards Outstanding Performance The acting company of Bug - Shannon Cochran, Michael Shannon, Michael Cullen, Amy Landecker, Reed Birney Won
Outstanding Design Team The design team of Bug - Lauren Helpern (sets), Tyler Micoleau (lights), Brian Ronan (sound), Kim Gill (costumes), Faye Armon (props) Won
Theatre World Award Shannon Cochran Won
Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Actress in a Play Shannon Cochran Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Play Dexter Bullard Nominated
Outstanding Sound Designer Brian Ronan Nominated


  1. ^ Financial Times: "Bug, Gate Theatre, London W11, Opened 20 September, 1996" Archived 2007-10-12 at the Wayback Machine (review by Ian Shuttleworth)
  2. ^ a b PerformInk.com: "Bug, Killer Joe's Dysfunctional Relation, Makes its Midwest Debut at A Red Orchid", by Lucia Mauro Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-06-09. Retrieved 2009-07-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Talkingbroadway.com Bug Archived 2006-12-30 at the Wayback Machine (review by Matthew Murray)
  5. ^ About: Theater (Feb. 24, 2004): "Bug Out", by Maria Knapp Archived May 18, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Newyorkcool.com: Bug Archived 2006-11-23 at the Wayback Machine (review by Wendy R. Williams)
  7. ^ "National Public Radio". Archived from the original on 2018-08-12. Retrieved 2018-04-01.

Further reading

Bug at the Internet Off-Broadway Database