Sebastopol drama production revisits pandemic of the past
Even as live entertainment venues have reopened, the coronavirus pandemic is still on our minds. Most diversions offer escape, but one local stage company is tackling the subject head on.
On Friday, April 8, Main Stage West in Sebastopol will open “One Flea Spare” by Naomi Wallace. The play, which premiered in New York in 1977, is set in London during the Great Plague of 1665, also known as “The Black Death.”
Which makes now a fitting, if unnerving, time to revive a 45-year-old play.
“We’re watching the characters go through something we’ve all just been through during the last couple of years,” said David Lear, the show’s director. “It struck me that there are so many parallels that make the play relevant to audiences today.”
In “One Flea Spare,” a wealthy aristocrat and his invalid wife are under quarantine inside their lavish home. In the middle of the night, two intruders, a sailor and a mysterious girl, break in and demand food.
“This play is extremely raw in the way the characters relate to each other,” Lear said. “Put people together like that, and what are they going to do? Things come out of them that they would not ordinarily do. The audience may get a little nervous.”
The play takes its title from John Donne’s poem “The Flea,” in which the speaker tries to convince his virginal lover of the harmlessness of sexual intimacy.
Lear has directed shows at most of Sonoma County’s live theaters over the past quarter-century, but he is best known for his Shakespeare in the Cannery productions, presented in the ruins of a 19th-century cannery near Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square from 2014 through 2018. The performances drew some 4,000 people over the program’s entire run.
Lauren Heney, who assisted Lear on all of the cannery shows, is acting as stage manager and more for “One Flea Spare.” She also has worked on and off as a stage manager and box office manager for years at Main Stage West.
“We’re co-conspirators,” Lear said. “Any time we work together, I consider her the co-director.”
Heney sees the play as provocative material, with characters challenging each other both verbally and physically, but she believes viewers will find the experience worth the effort, she said.
“The language of the play is really arresting, vulgar and revealing,” Heney said. “There is definitely a stream of love that connects the characters, even while they’re pushing others’ boundaries.”
You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-521-5243. On Twitter @danarts.
Arts & Entertainment, The Press Democrat
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