Monday, April 07, 2008

Fool for Love

Sam Shepard wrote his “Fool for Love” following the break-up with his wife in order to be with Jessica Lange. He described the play as “the outcome of all this tumultuous feeling I've been going through this past year. It's a very emotional play and in some ways embarrassing for me to witness but somehow necessary at the same time.”

Capital Stage is currently presenting “Fool for Love,” under the direction of Janis Stevens. The 75 minute play is presented without intermission and is heavy on dialog and not much on plot, but “plot” is not the intent of playwright Shepard.

While the play does not deal with marital infidelity, it is an intensely powerful, sensual, emotional roller coaster detailing the obsessive relationship between two people, Eddie (Jonathan Rhys Williams) and May (Williams' real-life wife, Stephanie Gularte) in a seedy motel somewhere in the Mojave desert, where May has been hiding out ever since Eddie's relationship with someone she refers to as “The Countess.” This is kind of motel where you keep glasses in the bathroom because there is no kitchen, and where the blinds on the window hang at a rakish angle, and nobody seems to care.

The action starts in silence, three people on the stage—Eddie and May, and the old man (Loren Taylor), sitting in semi-darkness watching the dialog unfold.

We don't need to feel the heat to know that it is hot. May looks completely drained, physically and emotionally. Eddie, desperate, asks May if he should leave, even though he has just driven more than 2,000 just to see her.

“I missed you. I did. I missed you more than anything I ever missed in my whole life. I just kept thinkin' about you the whole time I was driving. Kept seeing you. Sometimes just a part of you.”

The ambivalent nature of their relationship is established very early, as Eddie leaves, then comes back only to have May grab him and give him a passionate kiss.

It is very clear that these are two people who can't live together and can't live without each other.

Eddie has grand plans—He's going to settle down. He's going to move a trailer, build a corral in which to keeep horses, have a big vegetable garden and some chickens.

“I hate chickens! I hate horses!...You keep coming up with this lame country dream life with chickens and vegetables and I can't stand any of it...”

Gularte and Williams are perfect in their roles. It is perhaps their real-life marriage which makes the physical relationship between the two sizzle with such passion.

As the action plays out, the Old Man sits, watching, a drink in hand. We learn soon that he is the voice in Eddie's head and in his conversations with Eddie, we learn what impact his relationship with both Eddie and with May has had on each of them, and on their on-again-off-again relationship with each other.

Taylor makes a perfect grizzled old codger, for whom life was never easy, and who took his anger out on those around him.

A fourth member of the cast, David Campfield, plays Martin, May's date, who unwittingly arrives at the height of tension between May and Eddie. Campfield has the dazed look of a deer caught in the headlights as he tries to assess what exactly is going on between May and Eddie. He was so perfect in the role that he seemed to have difficulty shaking it at the final bow.

Special notice should be given of the lighting design of Ron Madonia and sound design of Brad Thompson who made things happening outside the motel amazingly realistic.

Director Stevens deserves credit for her ability to direct the verbal battle between Eddie and May with the same care as one would direct the arias of an opera.

“Fool for Love” is a gritty story that has no resolution because we know that no matter what they do, Eddie and May will always be connected to each other, whether they want to be or not.

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