Report From New York: Revival Of Shepard’s Fool For Love Is Tightly-Coiled Intimate Evening

Sam Rockwell and Nina Arianda in a rare moment of calm in Fool For Love

Sam Rockwell and Nina Arianda in a rare moment of calm in Fool For Love

We’re back from our trip to New York to scout out productions you might want to see (or not), shows that might tour South Florida and scripts that might be worth reviving in our regional theaters. We will run our reviews intermittently over the next two weeks. The shows include: On Your Feet!, Hamilton, King Charles III, The King and I, An American In Paris, Fool For Love, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Dada Woof Papa Hot and Allegiance. Links to other reviews can be found at the bottom.

By Oline H. Cogdill

A low-rent motel room on the edge of the Mojave Desert has never been more claustrophobic—nor more intense—than the shabby one in which three people collide against each other in Sam Shepard’s 1983 Fool for Love, getting a superb revival by the Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.

The door to this worst motel room ever is unlocked, but there is little escape for these characters trapped by their past and their raw feelings.

Here, Eddie, forcefully played by the ever-reliable Sam Rockwell, has reconnected with May, luminously played by the iridescent Nina Arianda, in a swirl of emotions that doesn’t stop even when May walks out that door into the abyss.

This is no happy reunion, but one bond by hate, love, despair, hope, obsession, guilt and even innocence. Watching the proceedings is The Old Man, sitting in the corner, who, at first, seems removed from the sparring of Eddie and May but who will prove to be the kinetic rope between the two.

May and Eddie are half-brother and sister, though through most of the play they maintain they are cousins. May has been hiding from Eddie, having found a new job and a potential new boyfriend, Martin, played with ease by Tom Pelphrey..

May and Eddie’s relationship is the epitome of the song “You Really Got a Hold on Me” as their need for each other trumps every logic, making little sense, even to them. They cannot live with each other, yet cannot be apart. Eddie also has an angry lover, known only as “the countess” who has followed him. This unseen lover who, at one point, shoots at the motel room from the safety of her luxury car is a metaphor for how the passion that Eddie and May feel for each other is capable of destroying each.

The Manhattan Theatre Club production is a tightly coiled 75 minutes in which every emotion is played out. Arianda, the 2012 Tony winner for Venus in Fur, is in perpetual motion. Even when she is still, she exudes an energy that fills the stage. Rockwell is at first a laconic cowboy, strutting across the stage. But his Eddie also is a dangerous man, who tries to tamp down the feelings that rule him, but fails at every turn. As The Old Man, Gordon Joseph Weiss is frightening in his soliloquy, showing that life with him would have been filled with physical and emotional abuse.

Director Daniel Aukin has expertly led Rockwell and Arianda in this searing dance of despair and love, a production that began at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2014. Dane Laffrey’s bare-bones set with its scarred furniture perfectly sets the tone, as does Justin Townsend’s lighting design.

Shepard has never been the most accessible of playwrights, preferring to toil in a world of eccentric characters and odd plots. But his believable dialogue unflinchingly exposes his characters’ souls. Of all his plays, True West with its sibling rivalry and Fool for Love are his most approachable plays.

Fool for Love would have benefited from a smaller space—the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre is almost too big for this play; the closer you can set to the stage, the better. But even that Broadway theater can’t overwhelm the brilliant, intimate moments we’ve spent with these fools in love and lust.

Fool for Love
is playing through Dec. 13, 2015, at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47th St., Manhattan, 212-541-8457. Ticket and more information at http://www.manhattantheatreclub.com/

To read our review of On Your Feet: click here

To read our review of Allegiance, click here.

To read our review of Hamilton, click here.

To read our review of King Charles III, click here.

To read our review of The King and I, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and An American In Paris, click here.

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