With a pattern of revelation that borders on Gothic, Wallace lets us find out why Darcy Snelgrave keeps her hands and throat covered. (It's not because she's hiding the black pockmarks left by the plague.) We also see Bunce allow Darcy to clean out the never-healing wound in his side with a sexual forthrightness that's touching in every sense of the word. Director Rafael de Acha manipulates the actors so that their characters intrude on one another's personal spaces with astounding impropriety. A scene in which Bunce uses an orange to explain to the prurient William Snelgrave how he satisfied his sexual urges while at sea is particularly cunning.
Indeed de Acha wisely responds with greater effect to Wallace's poetry than to her half-baked politics. (Must the rich white guy always be the bogeyman? Are the poor always blameless? I'm in favor of socialist causes but this scheme is far too easy.) The result is a production that's equal parts chilling and beautiful, as visually searing as it is dramatically inventive. Theatergoers are no less likely to forget the first image of the Snelgraves as they appear on stage, framed by ghostly backlighting, or the way Darcy stares into a candle flame as she describes a long-ago fire that wrecked her life, than they are to hang on to Wallace's searing dialogue. Doug Molash's austere scenic and lighting design and Marina Pareja's period costumes are essential to the story and truly wonderful.
David Alt and Lisa Morgan, who head up the New Theatre cast, prove once again why they are two of the best reasons to go to the theater in Miami. Newcomer Ursula Freundlich has the difficult job of playing a character who is ethereal but whom we must not perceive as precious. The confident and appealing actress, a junior at Carnegie Mellon University, does a marvelous job. As Bunce, Israel Garcia must play the character on whose head falls the political impact of the play. He gives a performance more complex than what the playwright intended. I'm not convinced that Wallace has much more on her mind than the notion that the poor shall inherit the Earth. But with an actor like Garcia in the role of Bunce, I can almost overlook the cliche and happily give him the keys to the Snelgrave estate.
One Flea Spare.
Written by Naomi Wallace. Directed by Rafael de Acha. With Ursula Freundlich, Israel Garcia, David Alt, and Lisa Morgan. Through July 25. New Theatre, 65 Almeria Ave, Coral Gables; 305-443-5909.