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Wednesday, 16 July 2014 00:00

One Flea Spare at Den Theatre

Four strangers are quarantined together as the Black Plague sweeps through London. They must struggle through personal and social prejudices as they try to survive being cooped up together for weeks. Fear of contamination and imminent death from the agonizing plague, hope of escape, and sexual strain haunts their daily confinement. Will the fittest survive not only the plague, but each other?

Director Jeffrey Clark Stokes has brought a team of newcomers and old hands returning to the stage to create his directorial debut. The highlight of the cast is Caroline Phillips, the young actress playing Morse, a strange girl who sneaks into the boarded-up house and has a profound effect on the wealthy owners’ lives. Her belief in each moment is governed with a direct simplicity and a strong voice, bringing bewitching contrasts of innocence and depravity to this ravaged setting.

A fresh look at a small space, the audience is in effect taken into the quarantined room and has the chance to experience the ghastly confinement through all-around, staggered seating, bringing actors and audience close together. Stripping away any semblance of presentation, a tension-filled realism is achieved as these family-like relationships tauten and wind around themselves.

A brilliant score by DePaul student David Samba ushers us into this hellish house utilizing murmuring winds, groans and repetitive dripping and tapping. The score emphasizes Wallace’s poetic wordplay and grotesque imagery, which startles, horrifies, and repulses even as it invites a closer look into the physical agonies of life in the Black Plague era.

Ghost Light Productions’ One Flea Spare runs July 13-25 at 7:30pm at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave, in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. The show runs 2:10 with a 10 minute intermission. Tickets are available at www.brownpapertickets.com.

Twitter@birunjibaby

Published in Theatre Reviews