Theatre review: 'Pest Control'

BOTTOM LINE: A feeble book undermines the entire production.

"Pest Control ... The Musical," as the title suggests, is a musical about bugs. A show about bugs isn't necessarily a bad thing, as Tracy Letts' gripping drama about paranoia, "Bug," illustrated last year. But "Pest Control" is no "Bug" and sadly, not much of a musical, either.

The story, based on a novel by Bill Fitzhugh, goes something like this: A harmless New York exterminator, Bob Dillon (Darren Ritchie), is mistaken for a hitman by the CIA and shady underworld figures simply because he's called an exterminator. Eventually, Bob is hired to assassinate a dope-dealing Latin American dictator (Joanna Glushak), but not before he falls in love with Parker (Beth Malone), the cute CIA agent keeping tabs on him.

Clearly, this is a story that lends itself to satire or black comedy or camp or something with a little bite or wit. The problem is that John Jay Moores' lackluster book is devoid of these or any other redeeming qualities, not to mention a point of view that might help animate the characters. Things just happen to them willy-nilly, and we're left holding the bug.

This presents a serious problem when the love story between Bob and Parker heats up, but we only know this from the love songs they sing that are far more passionate and interesting than the characters are. If Bob was a nerdy-guy type thrown into a cauldron of intrigue and romance, the situation might be more amusing.

This theater has done good work, notably in presenting such new musicals as "Dorian" and "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir." "Pest," despite a decent rock score from Vladimir Shainskiy and Scott DeTurk, probably needs an exterminator of its own.

Venue: NoHo Arts Center, North Hollywood (Through June 8)
Cast: Darren Ritchie, Beth Malone, Joanna Glushak, Cleavant Derricks.
Book: John Jay Moores Jr. Music: Vladimir Shainskiy. Lyrics: Scott DeTurk. Director: James J. Mellon.