Bwog Staffers Jessica Tsang and Lily Mooney attended the Barnard Theater Department’s Production of One Flea Spare, a Senior Thesis in Performance, which left us surprised, impressed, and wanting more. (Author’s note: Content warning for death.)
This past weekend, we attended the Barnard Theater Department’s production of One Flea Spare, directed by Professor Gisela Cardenas. One Flea Spare is a play by Kentucky playwright and screenwriter Naomi Wallace, which has been so critically acclaimed as to make it into the permanent repertoire of the French National Theater, a privilege that has only ever been awarded to two other American playwrights. This world-renowned narrative tells the story of an unexpected group of people including Mrs. Darcy Snelgrave (played by Abigail Duclos, BC ‘23), Mr. William Snelgrave (played by Erik Larsson, CC ‘23), Morse (played by Kiana Mottahedan, CC ‘26), Bunce (played by Jaeme Velez, GS ‘24), and Kabe (played by Botond (Boti) Ekler-Szabó, CC ’25), who find themselves pushed together during the Plague in England, quarantining, quarreling, and forging new relationships while dismantling the old.
Mrs. Darcy Snelgrave and Mr. William Snelgrave are a wealthy married couple who are forced to quarantine with Bunce, a poor sailor, and Morse, an orphan of a maid and the maid’s master, after Bunce and Morse sneak into the house. Kabe, the guard of the house, checks in on them frequently, reports on the deaths in the area, and also offers them gifts, in exchange for payment in many forms–some more appropriate than others. Mrs. Darcy Snelgrave and Mr. William Snelgrave’s marriage has lost its spark after Mrs. Darcy Snelgrave is burnt throughout her body while trying to save a beloved horse from a fire as a young woman, and throughout the play, they both look to Bunce for guidance and validation. Mr. William Snelgrave bonds with Bunce over a shared love for the ocean, and lectures him about the ins and outs of the socio-economic hierarchy in which he proclaims to be very experienced. Mrs. Darcy Snelgrave, on the other hand, forms a romantic connection with Bunce, bonding with him on the basis of their shared physical and emotional wounds. Simultaneously, most of the adult characters begin to form a parental connection with Morse. Mrs. Darcy Snelgrave first, protecting her against the wrath and bursts of anger from Mr. William Snelgrave. Bunce also protects Morse in a similar way and shares his stories of experiences at sea with her. Mr. William Snelgrave has a much more complicated relationship with Morse, most times being violent with her and growing annoyed with her wandering imagination and curiosity, but also sometimes exposing a sentimentality with her and playing along with her shenanigans. All of these interwoven dynamics and expanding issues build up to the climactic ending, where both Mrs. Darcy Snelgrave and Mr. Darcy Snelgrave end up dead, though not for the reasons we might expect.
With all of this in mind, we would like to share the top six moments when the incredible cast and team of One Flea Spare had us dropping our jaws and laughing out loud, or, at times, almost shedding a tear.
- “A wee slap on the buttocks of history!”
In a very tense, dare we say homoerotic, moment between Mr. Snelgrave and Bunce, Snelgrave, played by Erik Larsson, gets a little too excited about simultaneously enforcing and deviating from historical class distinctions. This line was delivered perfectly high-pitched and exuberantly, and had the whole audience laughing.
- “Brr, I am cold!”
Another interaction between Mr. Snelgrave and Bunce highlighting their forbidden romance is when Mr. Snelgrave asks Bunce to wear his shoes and use his cane to walk around, again trying to display the differences between the two men and their social class. Mr. Snelgrave insists that Bunce put his shoes on leaving him barefooted and prancing around the stage. After a sudden argument between the two, Mr. Snelgrave sits down and says this memorable line, leaving Bunce to take off the shoes and put them back onto Mr. Snelgrave’s feet. All wonderfully hilarious, and this line was referenced in the future as a recurring joke.
- The Orange Scene
We won’t get into the nitty-gritty details of it all, but just imagine Bunce “call me by your name-ing” an orange to teach Mr. Snelgrave what to do when he has…urges. We are here for this content!
- The capture of Mr. Snelgrave
In the moment we had been waiting for, at this point, an act and a half (over an hour), Darcy Snelgrave, Morse, and Bunce, all come together to sinisterly tie up Mr. Snelgrave with rope, a climactic moment which marked the beginning of a new sense of agency for the characters. Abigail Duclos as Darcy did a fantastic job portraying the sentiment of built-up spousal resentment and the ultimate release of getting to punish her husband in a moment of ultimate girlbossery.
- Morse and Her ‘key-hole schooling’
An audience favorite because of her lovable charm and mischievous nature, Morse had our jaws on the floor when she, a 12-year-old character, walked Bunce and Darcy Snelgrave through a thoroughly intimate exercise in what we will only refer to here as a consensual adult activity all while Mr. Snelgrave was blindfolded and tied to a chair in the same room. Explaining how she, a mere tot, knew such lude information, she said, very nonchalantly, that she had been schooled through keyholes. Needless to say, we understood and appreciated this reference, and actress Kiana Mottahedan perfectly embodied the proud sexual knowledge of a tween.
- The Killing of Darcy Snelgrave
This scene was most definitely our favorite, truly showing the talent of all of the actors, but specifically Senior Thesis actor Abigail Duclos. Mrs. Snelgrave bursts in, dying from the plague and covered in tokens. Bunce tries to use a knife to cut them off, but Mrs. Snelgrave decided to end her suffering and asked Bunce to kill her. Bunce said that he couldn’t, so Morse, a girl tragically familiar with death, volunteered. After delivering a heart-shattering speech, she swiftly kills Mrs. Snelgrave, leaving her and her husband dead in the room, waiting for Kabe’s arrival for pickup of the dead bodies. This scene was captivating and tied us to the characters and their backstories while ultimately ripping them out of our grasp.
In a performance filled with sly humor, sexual innuendo, and historical drama, the director and cast did a phenomenal job showcasing the complexities of this play. Each character had us immersed into the depths of the plague, and with the intricate array of costumes and details within the props, this production was a highly enjoyable watch. All taking place in one room with wallpaper covered and sparrows, two chairs, a lamp, and a boarded-up window, the five characters, each had boisterous personalities that filled the room. Every scene was captivating and witty, with us on the edge of our seats to see what would happen next.
Overall, we really enjoyed this show, and would like to offer profuse congratulations to the cast and crew! Everything from the set, to the costumes, to lighting and sound, and of course, the cast, was extremely well done and impressive. Bravo!
Image via Bwog Archives