One Flea Spare Review – An Insightful, Powerful Look into the Great Plague of London

 The Great Plague of London, overwhelming in its horror, is something I am interested in better understanding.  Playwright Naomi Wallace envisions this, and Ghost Light Productions and Jeffrey Clark Stokes present her powerful drama One Flea Spare directed by Jeffrey Clark Stokes at The Den Theatre. 

 

As we entered the lobby area of The Den Theatre I was struck by the energy of people interacting. Actors were practicing lines, people were enjoying drinks at the bar and enjoying one another's company.  And then it was playtime, actually, in many of the theatres located at The Den.  Note: The program for this production is very important. Inside a very meaningngful cover is a list of terms relating to "The Great Plague of London", 1665 that are important in understanding this play.

 

One Flea Spare premièred in London at the Bush Theatre on 18 October 1995.  Naomi Wallace is concerned with society’s underdogs and this play juxtaposes the haves and have-nots in a unique way in this play. We are introduced to four individuals; an aristocratic couple, Mrs. Darcy Snelgrave (Dori Erwin Collins), her husband, Mr. William Snelgrave (Scott Stockwell), a sailor, Bunce (Sean Jaskiewicz) and a young girl, Morse (Caroline Phillips), that are quarantined together during the Black Plague's sweep through London and their guard, Kabe (David Guy).  Mr. and Mrs. Snelgrave almost left their home but as they were about to leave, a young girl and a sailor take refuge in their home and moments later the guard responsible for checking home to see if a possible plague carrier is present, decides that it is necessary to quarantine these people for 28 days, marking their home with a red cross.

 

Imagine, if you can, as Naomi Wallace did, a couple of wealth and distinction, pillars of the community, a waif of a girl who has seen all the adult around her die and much more, and a sailor who has sailed against his will for many years.  The world around them is disintegrating while they struggle to survive and determine their place in a world in which all the old rules have changed. Attempting to connect to each other day after day, their interaction change, as do their relationships.  Truths are revealed, and lies exposed and in the end the world has changed, as we see the clash of cultural, social, and sexual boundaries.

 

Each character is well drawn and multi-dimensional and we get to know them well. In a cast that was excellent, Caroline Phillips as12 year old Morse was outstanding.  Lighting design, costume design and sound design added strength to the production. The cozy theater where One Flea Spare was presented offered some challenges as a theater in the round. Even though this play is set in 1665 and opened in 1995, there is much that relates to our world and it illuminates a shocking time in history.

Naomi Wallace’s plays include One Flea SpareIn the Heart of AmericaSlaughter CityThe Trestle at Pope Lick CreekThings of Dry Hours and The Fever Chart: Three Short Visions of the Middle East. Her work has been produced in the United Kingdom, Europe and the U.S. She has received the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize (twice), Kesselring Prize, Fellowship of Southern Writers Drama Award and an Obie Award. She is also a recipient of the MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship.  Wallace is also a published poet in the U.S. and England.  

 

The production team for One Flea Spare includes: Amanda Rozmiarek (scenic design/technical director), Megan Turner (costume design), Claire Chrzan (lighting design), David Samba (sound design), Vivian Knouse (properties design), Evan Williams (stage manager) and Rosie Chevalier (associate producer).

 

 

Regular run: Thursday, July 17  – Friday, July 25, 2014

Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. Please note: the will be an added performance on Wednesday, July 23 at 7:30 pm.

Tickets:$10 for all performances,available at www.brownpapertickets.com (event 626210).

For additional information, visit Jeffrey Clark Stokes website

For further information, check The Den Theatre website.

 

The Den Theatre,

1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago

(773) 398-7028

Photos: Lynn Millspaugh

 

 

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