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Friday, July 8, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

Theater Review

Class divisions, crisis, chaos in "One Flea Spare"

Special to the Seattle Times

I have; you don't. I give; you take. This is the universal language of oppression.

But what happens when rampant disease and enforced captivity change that equation between the haves and have-nots? When the world is teetering on the brink of collapse, who benefits?

Playwright Naomi Wallace's searing, beautiful play "One Flea Spare" (winner of a 1997 Obie Award and other prizes) is set in 1665 in a plague-ravaged London.

Theater review


"One Flea Spare" by Naomi Wallace, last performances tonight and tomorrow, Tanja Productions at Richard Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave., Seattle; $11-$14 (www.tanjaproductions.com or 877-278-4842).

A rich middle-age couple, Mr. and Mrs. Snelgrave (J. Spyder Isaacson and Kathy Stanley), are quarantined in their house with a strange sailor, Bunce (James DuRuz), and an equally mysterious young girl, Morse (Erin Culbertson) — two unwanted hide-a-ways. All will endure a month of captivity.

Outside their locked door patrols a city guard, Kabe (Jonathan Reis), who has his own ideas about "goods" and "services."

"One Flea Spare" is a riveting piece of theater — at turns poetic, caustic, satiric and romantic. Director Tanja Pineda's production catches some of the power of Wallace's terrific language but misses the complexities of character that could make this show soar.

Pineda's staging — on a minimal set of only a rug, a window frame and a single chair — can be very inventive. When dealing with the Snelgraves' highly repressed sexuality, her direction is sharp and witty.

But Pineda seems at a loss presenting the brutal side of class domination. Mr. Snelgrave needs to inspire a kind of fear. What we see is an arrogant man, easily bested.

With a script this rich, each cast member finds something interesting to play. But one performer, Culbertson, digs really deep.

Here we have a young actor finding the part a perfect fit. Culbertson is fearless. Her Morse starts off as a weird, precocious 12-year-old and grows, before our eyes, into a creature of mature, ironic compassion.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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