Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Fool for Love"

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note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Carl A. Rossi


by Sam Shepard

directed by Maria Brandt

Old Man … Bill Doscher
May … Jennifer Young
Eddie … Ken Flott
Martin … Brian Platt

We all have our fantasies. A G-rated one of mine is to drive down a long, deserted stretch of highway out in the American southwest, with only the stars above and Patsy Cline on CD for company, and I would drive on and on into mind-expanding infinity --- or, at least, to the next all-night diner. That sense of cosmic drifting --- as much inner as well as outer --- can be captured on film as in Robert Altman’s THREE WOMEN or Ridley Scott’s THELMA AND LOUISE, but how to mount it onto a proscenium stage, which is a three-sided box? I have now seen it done --- and done hauntingly well --- in the Industrial Theatre’s production of Sam Shepard’s FOOL FOR LOVE, where the action takes place not in the Mojave Desert as stated in the program but, rather, in the peaks and valleys of the heart where Time stops in order to expand. You may not find a more moving, tormented love epic west of TRISTAN UND ISOLDE then that of May and Eddie, two drifters who can’t live together yet can’t live apart (the ending is as ambiguous as anything Harold Pinter ever penned). The Industrial production is no less wonderful than the play for director Maria Brandt has staged it to a “T” (Mr. Shepard himself directed the world premiere; no doubt he got exactly what he wanted); I read the script before attending an Industrial performance and can vouch for Ms. Brandt’s faith (and trust) in Mr. Shepard’s intentions.

Take May’s motel room, for instance. Only twice do the lovers embrace within it; otherwise they tend to watch each other for opposite corners of the room or hug the walls in their rage or grief; when a wall is pounded or a door is slammed, reverberations come echoing down from some distant prairie god. A director who dismisses these actions as silly or obvious does both play and playwright a disservice: from what I saw (and felt), those walls, doors and echoes symbolize the distance that lies between May and Eddie as they move towards or away from each other --- you CAN be in a room with someone and still be miles apart --- if these actions were set to Wagner’s throbbing music, it would all make perfect sense: a delayed climax is far more pleasurable than one freely given. Ms. Brandt has heard that music, understood and served Mr. Shepard well --- it pays for directors to listen to their playwrights, once in a while….

Mr. Shepard requests faded green plaster walls for that motel room; Iván Nieves has given him earth tones instead, bringing the Mojave desert inside and setting the characters in stark relief against them (the only cool color is that hypnotic blue night beckoning outside the door); Tim Sawicki, the lightmeister, displays some clever visuals when a crazed (offstage) mistress rings twice.

Ms. Brandt’s ensemble is a good one; one member, superb. Brian Platt takes the lion’s share of laughs as Martin, May’s befuddled date, though Mr. Platt plays him as a preppy dum-dum rather than a local yokel; the remaining trio are ideally cast on appearance alone: Bill Doscher, a loveable St. Bernard of an actor, is the hermetic Old Man who opens and closes the play and may or may not be dreaming up the slowly unraveling plot (when will Boston see him as Falstaff or Sir Toby Belch?); as the star-crossed lovers, Ken Flott and Jennifer Young are lean to the point of stringiness: their Eddie and May believably exist on cigarettes and Tequila as they tumbleweed across those wide open spaces. Though I pictured Eddie as an aging but still-charismatic stud, Mr. Flott, who resembles a young Bruce Springsteen, is no less convincing as a mongrel Siegmund. Ms. Young is the superb one: her desert Sieglinde is as hard as wind-sculpted rock yet ever on the verge of collapse when Eddie draws near, and her black slip/red dress combo is so doggone RIGHT.

A fitting companion piece to this unshakeable poem would be the Bridget Fonda-James Mathers sequence from the film collage ARIA, played out in the wastelands of Las Vegas and set to Wagner’s “Liebestod”. Now, there’s cosmic love and drifting for you….

"Fool for Love" (25 April-10 May)
Leverett Old Library Theatre, CAMBRIDGE, MA
1 (617) 257-7480

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide