Scratch that itch, walk this way

Feel the squirm

Arriving just 10 minutes before curtain time at Cockroach Theater Company’s production of Tracy Letts’ mid-’90s play Bug, my group and I had slim pickings on seating. I ended up in a lone open chair on the front row. Also “curtain time” is inaccurate, since there was no curtain. The black box staging of Art Square’s theater placed me about five feet from the set’s centerpiece: an unkempt hotel room bed. The set alone was enough to put a neatnik like me on edge — dirty clothes strewn across the floor, dishes piled in the sink, drug paraphernalia scattered on every surface. Then, there was the production team’s brilliant use of sound, slowly escalating from the creepy murmur of a cheap AC unit, to the screeching white noise inside a delusional paranoiac’s head. Add to all that the plot’s inherent tension, and Bug had me fidgeting and scratching uncontrollably by intermission. In other words, directors Will Adamson and Aaron Oetting fulfilled the unnerving promise of Letts’ story, in which two people — a middle-aged waitress (played by Sabrina Cofield) who’s suffered both domestic violence and the loss of a child, and a mentally disturbed military vet (Levi Fackrell) with a mysterious past — hole up together and slowly stoke one another’s fears. The inevitable fire that results is a deeply satisfying end to a two-hour journey into the angsty heart of the human condition. When it was all over, I thanked my lucky stars for the placid life that awaited me outside the theater’s doors. — Heidi Kyser

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Hikers who aren’t jerks

So, drove out to Red Rock National Conservation Area yesterday for a short afternoon hik—OMG THIS PLACE HAS TURNED INTO LIKE A SANDSTONE DISNEYLAND CIRCUS OF NATURE. Three lanes of cars — representing a cross-section of The People, from crustilated OG hikers in battered pickups to minivan brood clans to silver-haired sugar daddies in gleaming convertibles — are backed up ten, twelve deep. On the loop, runners and cyclists and tour group shamblers thread around cars, motorcycles, scooters sidelined in the ad hoc parking lanes of the road’s shoulders. Traffic on the loop itself is a crawling midway carousel of vehicles. During the half-hour drive to reach the La Madre Springs pulloff, I was bracing for more madhouse — if not pure obnoxiousness, then, you know, that general, low-grade aggravated nervy populist proto-hysteria that certain crowds can manifest when they’re all bustling toward the same end zone — in this case, ironically, To Get Away From People For a While. And by the time I hit the trail, my expectations had subliminally bottomed out to such a degree that I was having visions of boorish throngs of loud-talking mopes leaving in their wake personal waste streams of empty Dasani bottles and Slim Jim wrappers.

Well, gotta say. Go ahead and credit the power of harboring dim-to-nil expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised: Given the crazy Sunday afternoon population bomb dropped on Red Rock, the trail was clean and the hikers were polite (save for one understimulated tween sharing with the world the syrupy R&B glugging from her pink smartphone). It very well might be selection bias at work: Could be that people who hike are generally more conscientious when it comes to using shared public amenities. Or it may be that the grandeur of nature rouses our inner angels, say, nudging the hand that would otherwise leave Fido’s freshly pinched handiwork piled in the middle of the trail. Or it may just be that all those years of owl-based pro-hoot anti-litter programming have taken proper root in the collective psyche. Whatever the cause, I didn’t mind the crowds this Sunday at Red Rock, because their good behavior suggested to me that they weren’t just other bodies, other persons to contend with and navigate and negotiate, but rather fellow aficionados enlisted in an active appreciation. Can I get a hoot? — Andrew Kiraly