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One Flea Spare

REBECCA JACOBSON
7:30 pm Thursdays-Saturdays and 5 pm Sundays through March 22., Saturday March 15 | $18-$22; Thursdays “pay what you will."
Shaking the Tree Studio
1407 SE Stark St.
 
The subject of Naomi Wallace’s 1995 play might be bubonic plague—the symptoms of which include black marks on the neck and hands, violent vomiting and eventual lunacy—but in many ways One Flea Spare is driven as much by the mind as by the flesh. It’s 1665 in London and a patrician couple, the Snelgraves, have discovered that two rogue individuals—a coarse sailor named Bunce and a 12-year-old girl claiming to be the only surviving member of another wealthy family—have infiltrated their estate. That means all four are subject to another monthlong quarantine, enforced by a lecherous, drunken watchman. As he patrols the periphery, the estate becomes a hothouse of sexual transgression, psychological manipulation and defiance of class hierarchies. Wallace’s poetic language can grow frustratingly self-conscious and opaque, so the best moments in this Shaking the Tree production are those that seize the story’s baser, more visceral potential. In one scene, Bunce (a mesmerizing Matthew Kerrigan) thrusts an orange onto Mr. Snelgrave’s outstretched index finger and then pulls it off, squeezing the fruit’s juice into his own mouth. The penetration imagery doesn’t stop there. In another psychosexually blunt interaction, Mrs. Snelgrave (Jacklyn Maddux, oozing emotional and physical distress) describes sticking a finger into an open wound below Bunce’s belt. Though the play is overwritten and the show overlong, Samantha Van Der Merwe’s thoughtful direction still makes this an odd and unsettling study of how the omen of death can pervert all we expect from life. And when the music pulses—the song choices span from M.I.A. to Rage Against the Machine—you’ve never had so much fun in quarantine.

Where: Shaking the Tree Studio
Phone: 235-0635
Address: 1407 SE Stark St.
Website: http://www.shaking-the-tree.com/

 
 
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