“ONE FLEA SPARE” Review - Twentieth Anniversary Revival

 

Poster

This 20th Anniversary NYC  Revival of “ONE FLEA SPARE” by Naomi Wallace, an Obie Award Winning play first presented here by Joseph Papp for the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1996, is a handsome mounting indeed. The work has won numerous honors in addition to afore mentioned Off-Broadway’s highest accolade, namely,  The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, The Joseph Kesselring Prize (named in honor of the playwright of “Arsenic and Old Lace”, a curious play of mass death as well), the 1996 Fellowship of Southern Writers Drama Award, and has the distinction of being the ONLY play by a living American playwright to be incorporated into the repertoire  of France’s National Theatre: La Comedie-Francaise.

 

L-R: Concetta Tomei, Remy Zaken, Gordon Joseph Weiss. Photo by Monica Simoes

The curious title comes from a poem by John Donne who was of a generation earlier than that of which the play deals: London of 1665 and the Great Plague of the reign of the newly restored to the throne, Charles II.  Yet Donne , as all Londoners of the 17th Century, was no stranger to “The Black Death”; hence the first two lines of his poem:

“Oh, stay, three lives in one flea spare/ Where wee almost, yea more than marryed are,”

Ms. Wallace’s tale nimbly staged and directed by Caitlin McLeod involves the disaster of disease occurring in London that year where countless lives succumbed to the infection of the flea carried on the backs of rats where not enough feral cats were left to subdue the rodents. It features five persons all ably played in this production: The young girl, Morse by Remy Zaken, The sailor, Bunce, by Joseph W. Rodriguez, The Aristocrat Housholder, William Snelgrave by Broadway veteran and Tony Nominee, Gordon Joseph Weiss, the Lady of the House, by the equally distinguished  B’way veteran, Concetta Tomei, and adding much needed  delight in a darkened mode to the proceedings in the role of the Guard, Rabe, a brilliant Donte Bonner. All but  Rabe  are prisoners in the Snelgrave house, and Rabe’s  occupation, among other grave duties is to keep them there approximately for a month to see if they shall die of the plague like the others Rabe disposes of, or miraculously survives, the disease, and/or each other. It’s difficult to discern which poses the greater threat. 

 

ONE FLEA SPARE -- Playhouse Creatures Theatre COmpany presents the 20th annniversary production of "One Flea Spare" by Naomi Wallace October 14 to November 13, 2016, directed by Caitlin Wallace. Front: Gordon Joseph Weiss, Remy Zaken. Behind: Concetta Tomei, Joseph W. Rodriguez. Photo by Monica Simoes

The elderly couple that the Snelgraves  present appear not to be a unified front to their unexpected “guests” and possible carriers of the plague, the young and cheeky Morse, and  the salty and wounded to the point of bleeding, Bunce.  He, subservient to be sure at first to Mr. Snelgrave,  becomes enlisted to the emotional needs of the mistress of the house and ultimately lords over the lord, expertly realized by Mr. Weiss in language and bearing.  Rodriguez’s  Bunce retains a quiet dignity throughout the proceedings and grows in authority both moral and physicality.  Concetta Tomei’s Mrs. Snelgrave is a study in contrasting steely resolve and vulnerability.  Remy Zaken’s perplexing character of Morse supplies considerable energy in sheer survival which is matched by the too infrequently seen Mr. Bonner, whose wealth of humor is displayed  at disparate levels of intensity and understandable gravity.

 

Donté Bonner, as Kabe, hawks plague remedies. Photo by Monica Simoes

This tight ensemble delivers a challenging two hour discourse on class, manners, survival, compassion, and love in times of plague, both within and without. The play runs to the 13th of November and is well worth the time to examine from another perspective whatever plagues us in these times.

 

L-R: Concetta Tomei, Gordon Joseph Weiss, Joseph W. Rodriguez. Photo by Monica Simoes

“ONE FLEA SPARE” by Naomi Wallace,  Directed by Caitlin McLeod is Presented by Playhouse Creatures Theatre Company at THE SHEEN CENTER: Black Box, 18 Bleecker St.- New York City( Bleecker St. & Elizabeth) New York City Opened Oct. 23rd –Nov. 13TH

 

 

Joseph W. Rodriguez, as Bunce, ministers to Concetta Tomei, as Mrs. Snelgrave, who has come down with the plague. Photo by Monica Simoes

For more information and tickets go to the Playhouse Creatures website

 

 

 

    

 

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