Two GeeksOuters went to see a musical. They came back with bedbugs…
“Justin, have you ever had bedbugs? “
“No, but my boyfriend did and it traumatized him. He refused to go to the show with me.”
“Yes, I've had them...they are awful. ‘Munch, munch, munch’ does not begin to describe”
“Do you think that influenced your feelings about the show at all?”
“Once I saw David Bowie in leather pants...I knew we weren’t talking about the same bug…”
Bedbugs!!! the Musical tells the story of a bedbug exterminator, Carly (Grace McLean), who took up her life’s work due to the traumatic death of her mother—she fell out of a bedbug ridden bed while young Carly was busy listening to superstar Dionne Salon (switch the names and say it out loud; it will come to you) on her 80s headphones. Years later, Carly and her brother Bert (Nicholas Park) are set to rid New York of bedbugs with a questionable formula. This musical causes the creepy crawlies to infest your hearts, minds, and mattresses.
The music was a love letter to the 80s. Chris Hall uses his previous roles as Frank ‘N Furter, Judas, and Hedwig to play Cimex, the bug lord of rock and king of the bedbugs. Salon, played by Brian Charles Rooney, was the star of the show-- next to Cimex’s codpiece. McLean has excellent pipes as Carly and belts out amazing riffs, but Rooney was pretty amazing. Dionne was maybe the best character in the whole thing: she’s got great pipes and is a major scene stealer. Rooney was the strong female character that Carly should have been. The show, filled with self-deprecating puns, never once made mention that Salon is a 6 foot tall man in drag; we had to read it in the program to believe it! The binge eating, French-Canadian’s character was one of the only things they played straight in the show. The gay brother/sidekick Bert does have a brief, yet meaningful romance with a hipster. The show parodies all walks of life and never takes itself too seriously.
The setting is really cool. First off, refurnished church basement where the show resides screams “bedbugs” (and in fact a cheeky sign outside reads “Bedbugs!!! In this theater!”). All of the props are upcycled from garbage. Mattresses on wheels can be a car, a lab bench, or, well, a bed. The set design was suggestive and minimalist but worked. The space is a bit cramped and stuffy, however, and the seats are tight.
Bedbugs!!! is unique and entertaining, and the performances are terrific. The play does have a bit of clutter and could benefit from tightening and cutting back on extraneous characters and subplots. Yet, by the end of the show, we cared for the characters. We root for Bert, Celine, and Carly and really get infested by the characters’ struggles. The show had some parts that bugged us, and it’s not perfect, but it will leave you itching for more.
See bedbugs on the N train now, or see them sing (in codpieces) at the ArcLight Theatre, 152 West 71st Street thru Oct 26th. Tickets and more information online: http://www.bedbugsmusical.com/
This piece was co-written by Justin Lockwood