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By David M. Straight
Special to The PREVIEW
Thingamajig Theatre Company opened its 2013-2014 season last Thursday evening with a strong, provocative production of one of contemporary theater’s most interesting and notable plays, “One Flea Spare,” by Naomi Wallace.
With a performance history that includes the 1997 Obie Award for Best Play and admission into the permanent repertory of the Comedie-Francaise in 2009, this play explores the social chaos that ensues when people of widely divergent social classes are quarantined together during the plague in 17th-century London.
Tim Moore’s clear direction emphasizes the dichotomies of venality and charity, cruelty and compassion, and self interest and self loathing that war for primacy in the human condition. His staging groups the characters in constantly changing alliances on a raked stage by John Santangelo, with dramatic lighting by Erika Kae.
The acting by the characters who represent the commoners, Bunce (David Menich) and Morse (Melissa Cheffers), carries much of the moral force of the story, embodying the upward mobility for which the masses have striven throughout history.
Menich in particular creates a memorable portrayal of a man seeking to assert his own worth in a world that tells him he has none. He infuses every detail of his character with energy, commanding the stage whenever he is on it.
Cheffers is also eminently watchable, playing her role with fierce commitment and fleshing it out with fascinating nuances.
By contrast to the commoners, the aristocratic Mr. and Mrs. Snelgrave (Terry Evans and Desiree Henderson) represent the tendency toward dissolution in civilization when ruling classes are compromised by corruption and hollow authority. Evans etches that trajectory with insightful delivery and broad humor. Henderson plays her part with quieter bearing and more limited range of dramatic choices than the other actors, despite her character’s horrific life story, but the wounded dignity that permeates her performance is quite moving, and she frequently commands attention with an unsettling undercurrent of honest eroticism.
As the town crier Kabe, Moore obviously relishes playing the crass and cynical purveyor of death, providing a darkly existential context for the conflict between the other characters.
It’s a solid win for Thingamajig Theatre and has more laughs throughout than you’d imagine along with a very nice twist to the plot in the second act. It is dark, humorous, and immensely satisfying. Go see some great theatre.
Thingamajig Theatre Company presents “One Flea Spare,” by Naomi Wallace, directed by Tim Moore, rated R for mature themes, Oct 10-27, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.
For tickets and show information, visit www.pagosacenter.org or call 731-SHOW.