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Review: One Flea Spare (Ghost Light Productions)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: One Flea Spare (Ghost Light Productions)   
One Flea Spare

Written by Naomi Wallace  
Directed by Jeffrey Clark Stokes
at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee (map)
thru July 25  |  tickets: $10   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
   Read review



Weak ‘Flea’ tells more than it shows


Review: One Flea Spare (Ghost Light Productions)


Ghost Light Productions i/a/w Jeffrey Clark Stokes presents


One Flea Spare

Review by Lauren Whalen 

It’s obvious that director Jeffrey Clark Stokes is passionate about One Flea Spare. From his effusive pre-curtain speech to his loving director’s note in the playbill, his devotion to Naomi Wallace’s play shines through. However, a passion for the source material only goes so far, especially when said source material is fairly dated and its relevance questionable. Sloppy production values and weak acting certainly don’t help Mr. Stokes’ cause. Though intentions may have been pure, the end product is anything but.  Unfortunately, One Flea Spare is borderline painful to watch and more significantly, leaves one scratching their head and asking, “Why this play, and why now?”

Review: One Flea Spare (Ghost Light Productions)
In the mid-17th century, the Black Plague is sweeping through London. Death tolls are announced daily, living humans are thrown in with corpses to prevent the spread of disease, and everyone’s on the lookout for the telltale sores and symptoms. After boarding off most of their lavish home, a wealthy couple (Scott Stockwell and Dori Erwin Collins) find themselves with two unexpected guests: a sailor (Sean Jaskiewicz) and the preteen daughter (Caroline Phillips) of an already-deceased nobleman, who may or may not be what she seems. As the motley crew attempt to connect with varying degrees of success, a guard (David Guy) stationed in front of the couple’s home engages in the decline around him, as he bargains, announces and preaches with sadistic cheer.

The main issue with this One Flea Spare is its script. Even in a time of arguable destruction, where human beings don’t hesitate to brutally rip each other apart daily on social media and war ravages other areas of the world, this historical plague tale feels curiously irrelevant. Could it have been restaged in present times, for a Walking Dead feel (minus the zombies)? Perhaps. I feel that while Stokes certainly told us why the play was important to him, he didn’t show it in the production. That said, One Flea Spare’s text contains potential for significant moments, dramatic tension and character development – but sadly, none of this is realized due to Stokes’ poor staging and direction. Even in a small studio theater, my sight lines were sometimes limited, and I often questioned blocking choices.

Review: One Flea Spare (Ghost Light Productions)

Sadly, the acting isn’t much better. Only Collins has any grasp whatsoever of effective verbal and physical delivery. No one else seems to understand that in a small studio theater, speaking very loudly all the time isn’t necessary. In fact, it’s often counterproductive. Guy interprets all of his dialog as unequivocally happy, completely missing his guard character’s sinister undertones – ditto Stockwell, who shouts every word, seemingly without stopping to think what any of them mean. Jaskiewicz’s Bunce is just plain bland, and as the enigmatic young girl, Phillips is out of her league among the adult actors. Perhaps a smarter casting choice would have been to choose an actress who only looks young, rather than an actual teenager.

I sometimes have a hard time critiquing passion projects, as I can certainly understand loving a text so deeply that I want to share it with the world, at any cost. That said, I wish more thought had been put into One Flea Spare, and more questions asked, such as: Why this play? Why now? Why not another text, another interpretation, another time period? There’s danger in rushing so passionately into a project – by loving something so much, you risk smothering it.





One Flea Spare continues through July 25th at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $10, and are available online through (check for half-price tickets at More information at  (Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes, includes an intermission)

Review: One Flea Spare (Ghost Light Productions)

Photos by Lynn Millspaugh




Dori Erwin Collins (Darcy Snelgrave), David Guy (Kabe), Sean Jaskiewicz (Bunce), Caroline Phillips (Morse), Scott Stockwell (William Snelgrave)

behind the scenes

Jeffrey Clark Stokes (director), Amanda Rozmiarek (scenic design, technical director), Megan Turner (costume design), Claire Chrzan (lighting design), David Samba (sound design), Vivian Knouse (properties design), Evan Williams (stage manager), Rosie Chevalier (associate producer), Lynn Millspaugh (photos)


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