REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

One Flea Spare

one flea spare by naomi wallaceBy Naomi Wallace

Directed by Anish Jethmalani

Produced by Eclipse Theatre Company

At the Greenhouse Theatre, Chicago

Eerily provocative 17th Century morality play – One Flea Spare -portrays human nature’s foibles in time of stress

Eclipse Theatre’s current season features playwright Naomi Wallace and her 1995 work – One Flea Spare – now playing at the Greenhouse Theatre, is a provocative drama set in London during the ravages of the bubonic plague in 1665. We meet a twelve year old common girl, Morse (Elizabeth Stenholt), as she sneaks into the home of a wealthy upper class couple, Snelgrave (Brian Parry) and his wife Darcy (Susan Monts Bologna) add Bounce (J.P. Pierson), a poor sailor. These four are trapped into a quarantine in Snelgrave’s house as part of the fight to stop the plague from spreading.

One flea spare by naomi wallace

Much of the two hour play deals with the interaction among the divergent four. Snelgrave is the proper Christian  gentry. He is commanding, sexuality frustrated and fearful of the plague. Darcy, is his unloved wife, is sexually starved while Morse is a precious 12 year old wise beyond her years. The wretched sailor Bunce is both a kindly soul and a sneaky parasite.

One flea spare by naomi wallace

The four spend their time quarantine poking into the conflicting morality of the classes. Snelgrave questions Bunce on life as a sailor. He wants to know if Bunce has ever killed anyone and how he deals with his lonely sexless times at sea?  Morse and their outside contact, Kabe (Zach Bloomfield) exchange touches and sensual acts for food. Darcy reveals how she was burned years ago leaving her body scared and unattractive to Snelgrave. She flirts and pursues Bunce to fulfill her latent sexual urges. The work crosses the class lines in British society as carnal urges and the reality of potential death allow these desperate souls to get some personal physical fulfillment before their lives end. The manipulations by each are cleverly depicted as all societal rules of decorum vanish as each survival instincts conflict with their carnal urges. The true nature of each comes out as their isolation looms.

OneFleaSpare, Elizabeth Stenholt, SusanMonts Bologna

Wallace’s poetic language is nicely enunciated by this fine cast. Young Elizabeth Stenholt shows promise as an actor. Brian Parry and J. P. Pierson gave yeoman performances. Susan Monts Bologna’s subtle performance powerfully emerged as the strongest. There is humor, intensity and truth in One Flea Spare.  For something different, see  this show.


Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: April 15, 2011

Jeff Recommended

For full show information, go to the One Flea Spare page at

At the Greenhouse Theatre, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL, call 773-404-7335,, tickets $28, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2:30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission, through May 22, 2011


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