Hammers on wood make a mighty racket and lights fade as Snelgrave (John Halbach) and his wife, Darcy (Elizabeth Duck), are sealed into their London house for a month of quarantine in the Kennedy Center-Kenan Fund Artists-in-Residence’s production of One Flea Spare. It’s 1665, a thousand people a week are dying of plague, and the hapless Snelgraves failed to flee the city before their servants became sick. Now more bad luck has befallen them in the persons of Morse (Latima Good), an orphan with an upstairs dress but a downstairs accent, and Bunce (Aubry Deeker), a runaway sailor, who were seen sneaking into the Snelgrave house and have thus condemned the couple to an additional month of confinement. The newcomers are absorbed reluctantly into the household, Bunce as a servant and Morse, because she’s perceived as “one of us,” as a daughter. Gradually, the barriers of class and sex break down as the pressure of the four living in the only two habitable rooms builds, their sole visitor the loathsome warden, Kabe (Mando Alvarado), who fetches food in return for money or feels of young Morse’s limbs. Playwright Naomi Wallace settles for the usual clichés about the upper and lower classes: Effete Snelgrave demands intimate revelations from his housemates, then stomps his cane and yells such things

as “I’ll have you in the stocks!” Bunce tells Darcy, “Your lot always want to fuck your servants.” He’s right—Darcy hasn’t gotten any since she was disfigured in a fire, and Snelgrave loves hearing tales of men alone at sea. Morse, played by Good with pixieish charm and wisdom beyond her years, is supposed to be the hope of the post-plague future—a mongrel of the classes who can identify with and feel compassion for all. The black tomb of the District of Columbia Arts Center serves the claustrophobic atmosphere of the play well, and the simple set of two upholstered chairs and a table is all that’s needed. The hammering, which unfortunately continues past its effectiveness to mark every scene change, is not for the migraine-prone, but where the production ultimately stumbles is over the low bar the playwright has set for herself: Snelgrave, with his satin breeches, religious fundamentalism, and questionable sex drive, makes an easy target. Once she picks him off, though, she offers nothing in his place.—Janet Hopf