As a New Yorker, I have a special understanding of the torturous little bloodsuckers that are bedbugs. During my childhood, they existed only in the bedtime rhyme, "Goodnight, sleep tight, and don't let the bedbugs bite," but now they're a reality that live on the trains I take, in my local movie theaters, and worst of all, in the homes of people I know! Yuuuck. And they are damn near impossible to get rid of! To think, I thought roaches were bad... So when I heard about Bedbugs!!!, a musical where a mutant strain of bedbugs takes over New York City, I let out an involuntary guffaw.
Yup. That was me.
Then I ran to the ArcLight Theatre to see it. As I took my seat, I noticed that the stage was set up to look like a filthy New York City alleyway, complete with rotting garbage and holey mattresses. Basically, it was exactly the type of place you'd expect to be infested with bedbugs, and I could already feel an itch coming on.
What followed went from merely funny to flat out ridiculous in the span of a few hours. Think gloriously intricate costumes with capes fashioned from garbage bags, bedbugs that communicate via click language, inter-species relationships, and a scarily convincing man in drag playing a Canadian singer called, interestingly enough, "Dionne Salon."
The little things were really what did it for me: The bucket-loads of fake insecticide the actors sprayed in our faces, the choreography that included people scratching their bedbug bites in rhythm, and how Cimex, the leader of the new strain of murderous Bedbugs, came up with bed related pet names for his Queen (My little throw pillow, my comforter, etc). It all added up to one outrageously well thought out whole.
I must mention that the dude playing "Dionne Salon" could make a fortune as a full time Celine Dion impersonator. I don't recall ever seeing a performer quite like him. He had such magnificent stage presence that he commanded my attention even while standing in the background. I'm also fairly certain that that his voice is capable of anything.
At one point, the actress playing Carly got her microphone caught on a part of the set and ripped off all of her mic tape in the process of untangling herself. I think if that happened to me I'd want to pack up my things and disappear to somewhere nobody would ever think to look for me- like New Jersey! Okay, who am I kidding? I'd never go that far. But I would want to sink through the floor from the embarrassment. This actress, in what I can only describe as a wave of pure badassity, carried on as if nothing major had happened, not letting it slow her down in the least. And being that Carly is such a clumsy character, she was able to play the whole thing off as if it were a deliberate character choice. And I ate it up.