One Flea Spare

by Naomi Wallace. Perhaps it is not fair to review this play, since I acted in it, but rereading it gave me new insight into the way in which Naomi Wallace creates drama on the stage, and how her scenes string the audience along. The basic gimmick is this — start the scene when it is about to blow up and assume that the actors and director are competent enough to make the action understandable to the audience. Then, rather than resolving the conflict in the scene, have it end with the characters speaking at cross purposes, almost overlapping two monologues. The juxtaposition of the lines creates associations in the mind of the audience, and the tension that is a lack of communication is very dramatic. It furthermore serves to show the audience the separate decisions of the two characters that carry them into the next scene.

It’s a slick trick, and worth noting as a writer but also as an audience member. These are the ways in which a playwright reveals information. I tend to go into theaters in an almost adversarial relationship with the work — I resist its attempts to lead me to easy conclusions, and I question the director and playwright’s intentions. That doesn’t mean I don’t end up agreeing with them, but I don’t want to make their job easy.

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