Bedbugs isn’t just about the unpleasant creatures frequenting apartments around the city. According to director Deanna Dobie, it’s about human relationships. The Concordia Association of Students in English’s production shows what happens when a male bedbug becomes dangerously obsessed with a human female, changing the relationship dynamic between all the characters.
The show was written by Rachael Picard, who won a CASE competition that allowed her play a short run. However, Dobie only stepped in over the winter break, when the previous co-directors left the project. “Coming on late, it really took all the energy and the focus because it was already cast when I came on board,” explained the theatre development student. “In order to do justice and give all my energy to the play, I actually dropped my three credits that would have allowed me to have graduated.”
Dobie also had to make do without a stage manager, stating that the person she picked was involved in two other shows. “For various other reasons it just didn’t work out. The person that came on board was so overworked that I couldn’t in good faith keep him although he was fabulous,” she said.
Therefore, Dobie was left to make all the creative and planning decisions herself. “It meant quite a few late nights,” she shared. Even though rehearsals only started in mid-January, she stated that the lack of time was made up for by the cast’s motivation. “We’ve had minimal rehearsal, but everyone’s totally on board so it’s going to be a great show,” she said.
Despite difficulties on the planning side, Dobie managed to fulfill her vision on a creative level, with some help from her costume designer, Deborah Sullivan, and musician Yianis Mvoula. “With reading the script that Rachael Picard wrote, I got really, really excited and the theatrics started to come out, the visuals started to come out in my head,” said Dobie. What she imagined was a sexy tango between one of the bedbugs, Rex, who takes an interest in the human Julie. Luckily, choreographer Jenn Doan and Mvoula were up to the job. “You can’t teach somebody to be intuitive,” stated Dobie about Mvoula’s guitar work.
Working at the Freestanding Room came with its own set of benefits and challenges. “I eventually got to this place which actually suits the bedbugs because it’s like a large, large apartment,” explained Dobie. Since the Freestanding Room is so small, using complicated lighting and costume changes were out of the question. Therefore, music is used to indicate the switch between bedbugs and humans.
As for the costumes, Dobie’s vision clicked right away with Sullivan’s, and they made the decision to have the actors gradually add layers of red on top of shimmery, see-through material. “Even though it’s a short play, there’s a lot of scenes and a lot of costume changes, particularly for the bedbugs. The choice to just keep layering the bedbugs was partly born out of need and also because the bedbugs grow as they feed and they change colour.”
Now that opening night is creeping nearer, Dobie is excited by the pressure that seems to be energizing her cast. “If anything, I’ve got to calm it down more, which is a lot easier than having to pick up people,” she said. “Both bedbugs, they’ve got enough energy for all of us!”
Bedbugs runs from March 3 to 5 at The Freestanding Room, 4324 St Laurent Blvd. Tickets are $10, $8 for students.