One Flea Spare at Eclipse Theatre Company | Theater review
Eclipse’s feverish revival of Naomi Wallace’s Black Plague drama features an impressive performance by Susan Monts-Bologna.
Wallace sets her 1995 drama in London in 1665, smack dab in the middle of the Great Plague, an epidemic that killed more than 75,000 people out of an estimated population of 460,000. In the play, it feels like the end of the world. And, as any disaster movie will tell you, the end of the world is murder on the class system. During the 28-day quarantine Wallace depicts, it all but collapses.
The site of the forced confinement is the London home of the wealthy Snelgraves, William and Darcy, who have been stuck in a loveless marriage ever since a fire disfigured Darcy decades ago. They’re joined for the quarantine by two commoners—a sailor and a serving girl wearing clothes stolen from her dead employers—who have separately snuck into the house thinking it was abandoned. The prevailing order of things, with William lording over the others with noblesse oblige, doesn’t hold sway for long, because for once the masters and the menials are in the same boat. Consequently, power relationships and sexual arrangements turn all topsy-turvy. Chaos looms.
Though Wallace’s indulgence in poetic language can sap the play of forward motion, Jethmalani’s staging feels appropriately feverish and in flux. Each cast member contributes a satisfactory performance, but Monts-Bologna, as Darcy, walks away with the whole thing. Tasked with playing a character driven primarily by sexual longing, Monts-Bologna avoids turning Darcy into a horny old broad, conveying instead a desperate, lifelong ache to connect to another human being. She’s mesmerizing.