By: Sandi Durell
Sam Shepard’s much talked about 1983 revival Fool for Love, currently housed at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre in Manhattan Theatre Club’s production, presents the fiery combustion of Eddie (Sam Rockwell) and May (Nina Arianda), the two main characters who seem to be on the edge of doom.
It’s an uncomfortable relationship – brother and sister, each from different mothers, each fathered by The Old Man (Gordon Joseph Weiss), who appears as an all-to-real ghost, always present in each scene to give his side of the sweltering story of co-dependence and power struggle that describes the connection between Eddie and May. They are verbally and physically abusive to each other in their unique bond of love-hate.
As the story goes, Shepard wrote this play when he left his wife to begin a new relationship with Jessica Lange, describing it as an absolute hell. It is this absolute hell that permeates throughout.
Eddie, a well chosen Rockwell, is a lasso-circling, bow-legged, beaten down cowboy, who thoroughly understands and connects to all the deeper emotional turmoil as if he actually experienced every moment of the character.
When he tracks May down, she’s living in a seedy motel in the Mojave Desert – his intention is to take her away in his trailer, but she’s at the end of her rope, fed up and accusing him of leaving her all the time. They go through their ritual of screaming, pushing, shoving, throwing each other against a wall, along with any furniture that might be in the way. This is tempered by extreme kissing and clawing at each other’s bodies as The Old Man adds his own brand of family drama and recollections.
Arianda (who won a Tony for “Venus in Fur”), on the other hand, although up to the task of the extreme physicality of the character, including kicking Eddie in the groin (ouch), looks great and appears desperate but seems a bit divested as May; she does a lot of screaming at high pitch levels but it feels more scripted rather than coming from deeper more agonizing emotions.
Adding to the mix is a not-to-bright boyfriend Martin (Tom Pelphrey) whom May awaits as Eddie revs up to destroy him.
The excruciating, intense story is directed by Daniel Aukin who keeps the all star cast moving vigorously in Dane Laffrey’s set design, lit by Justin Townsend, and is over in 75 minutes. – no intermission.
Photos: Joan Marcus
Fool for Love runs thru December 6th. Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47 St., NYC www.manhattantheatreclub.com