Fool for Love
nytheatre.com review by Leslie Bramm
February 25, 2011
Fool for Love tells the story of Eddie and May. They love each other in spite of each other. This 1983 play by Sam Shepard is currently being revived by Variations Theatre Group.
A quick search of the internet tells me that origin of the name Eddie means “guardian,” and May (from Mary) means “bitter heart.” This certainly comes into play with Shepard’s use of classical mythology.
Fool for Love is as close as Shepard gets to writing a proper love story, and with his usual brutality and gift for language, it’s a quirky romance to be sure. Set at a hotel on the edges of the desert in Arizona the play has Shepard’s familiar sense of lore, both classical Greek and Western. Eddie is a movie stunt man, and he’s driven over two thousand miles to find May. She’s holed up at this motel hiding from him, or is she? May very much wants Eddie out of her life, but completely in it at the same time. Well, find her he does. The two begin a familiar game of seduction, and violence. Each testing the other, and the other’s love. Every time they meet, it would seem, they must reenact this ritual.
Eddie has been sleeping around, most recently with a woman referred to as the “countess,” who later comes searching for Eddie. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but it’s May’s scorn that Eddie is most interested in provoking. A character called simply the “Old Man” sits outside the room, in a kind of other-worldly region. Like an owl on a tree branch, he waits for the rabbit to come out into the open. The ritual complicates when Eddie discovers May has been dating, and in fact has a date that very night, with a sweet and guileless young man called Martin, whose etymology means “warlike.” In this instance the character is not so much a warrior as a tool used to fuel the war between Eddie and May. The end of the play is riveting, so I won’t give anything away. Suffice to say when love is at stake extremes will be gone to.
Variations Theatre Group does an excellent job with this revival. The set by R. Allen Babcock is minimal, almost a skeleton of the room, but fits Shepard’s criteria of “suggested” locations. The back wall of the theatre is painted with a desert motif. We see the mountains that surround them, perhaps symbolizing the degree of their emotional journey, and the hotel itself. Scenic artists Stephanie Ferraioli and India Gaea Smith have painted a gorgeous landscape, thus creating a bleak emotional tableau before the play begins. John Albano designed the sound, and made excellent choices for pre- and post-show music, using Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash songs that remind us of how bittersweet any love affair can be. Rich Ferraioli helms the play. His direction is as simple as it is effective. He paces the piece to build in tension, and has done an excellent job of letting the actors go, and reigning them in, when necessary. The fights are well-staged and realistic.
As May, Christina Elise Perry is amazing. In the hands of a lesser actor May would be an easy role to overact. Perry finds a perfect balance and restraint, showing us May’s rage and her hurt. She’s beautiful, but lets herself go to ugly places in her heart, and you believe her. Kirk Gostkowski’s Eddie is equal in passion and pitch to her. He pulls off the stunt man cowboy, and we experience Eddie getting meaner and meaner the more he drinks. We’ve all seen these types of drunks—the ones that can lament in one breath, and lash out in the next. Gostkowski gets down with it. Veteran actor Charlie Moss plays the Old Man. Moss is the kind of an actor you want to hear a long story from. Not to mention one of the best profiles you’ll ever see on stage. Moss’s chops allow him to command a scene when he needs to, and pull back at the perfect time. Not an easy task for a character that sits on the precipice of the entire play, mostly silent. Collin Meath plays Martin. The oddball character and a foil for Eddie and May, he provides a much needed comic relief. While the text has humor built in, the play is a drama. Meath’s sense of timing and his overall persona allow the audience a breath.
For all its ugliness, the ritual in which Eddie and May engage allows them to fall in love all over again, time and time again. Who wouldn’t drive two thousand miles, over mountains and countesses, through tequila and heart break, to stand toe-to-toe with love?
If you’re a fan of this play or Shepard’s work you will not be disappointed with Variations Theatre Group’s revival. They bring their A-game and take us into this dark, sad, but ultimately affirming tale of love.