One Flea Spare | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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One Flea Spare

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ONE FLEA SPARE, Dolphinback Theatre Company, at Live Bait Theater. Naomi Wallace's Obie-winning play deserves a better production than this earnest but simplistic presentation by Dolphinback. One Flea Spare offers a complicated criticism of class relationships and erotic attachments as it tells the story of two aristocrats and two commoners quarantined together in London during the plague. Wallace's sophisticated use of imagery and parallel scenes, an approach that intertwines social and emotional issues, creates an intense theatrical world.

Director Matt Wallace and his cast make this ambitious play into a low-energy melodrama. Although Wallace's language retains some interest, the actors are too inexperienced to bring out the work's thematic and emotional complexities. A low-budget production further weakens the play; as performed on Live Bait's carpeted and platformed stage, many of the characters' scripted actions seem arbitrary. The bar table and generic chairs are anachronistic and awkward. Too bad DePaul's MFA production of One Flea Spare isn't still running; with departmental funding and the director's clear vision of the play, that staging offered Chicago a much better view of this remarkable work. --Carol Burbank

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