By Sam Shepard; Directed by Daniel Aukin
Produced by Manhattan Theatre Club
Broadway, Play Revival
Runs through 12.6.15
The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th Street
by Shoshana Roberts on 10.12.15
Sam Rockwell in Fool for Love. Photo by Joan Marcus.
BOTTOM LINE: A raw, unhealthy look at love from esteemed playwright Sam Shepard, revived by actors who breathe life into the script.
It wasn't until I breathed an audible sigh that I realized I had been holding my breath for the better part of an hour. Most shows have a steady build or highs and lows built into the story arc. Playwright Sam Shepard throws those guidelines out the window; this world is written such that I could not help being caught up in the extra sensory blast to my nervous system in which the characters are living. With energy and talent bouncing off the walls of the Friedman Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club delivers a doozy of a production of this stellar work.
May (Nina Arianda) and Eddie (Sam Rockwell) have a sordid past. Their lives are intertwined in more ways than you can imagine. Perhaps it is The Old Man (Gordon Joseph Weiss), whose presence never wavers, that has bound these two together. They have known each other since high school, but with talk of a pact and stories of the past it is hard to commit to each other. May is all too familiar with the emotional abuse Eddie dishes out, as he informs her, “I'll track you down no matter where you go. I know exactly how your mind works. I've been right every single time.” How much can one woman take? Especially when Eddie's most recent female companion not only follows him to May's dilapidated hotel room, but also opens fire on them.
May tries her damnedest to display an air of confidence, but her emotions get the better of her. As her date Martin (Tom Pelphrey) arrives, even more commotion occurs. As a simpleton, Martin takes May and Eddie at their word and obediently becomes a pawn on their game board. Each move they make is strategic. May cannot let her guard down for fear of being hurt yet again.
The love and fury between May and Eddie is strong. Arianda and Rockwell push and pull each other physically and mentally, caught up in a painful love. A psychotic love. An unhealthy love. Is there a way to overcome the past? To overcome this torture?
This flawless rendition of Fool for Love has a je ne sais quoi about it. The common idea that love is pain certainly comes into play here. Even Arianda's blinks are fraught with frustration. She, Rockwell, Weiss, and Pelphrey all live and breathe Shepard's world. They are grounded in a solid reality within an excellently planned space from the amazing scenic designer, Dane Laffrey. The set evokes countless thoughts and feelings to analyze as its own entity, and then once again as part of the collaboration with the characters who are drinking and kissing and fighting there. Strip everything away and Sam Shepard's compelling script still stands on its own: dark and twisted, yet funny as hell. Underlying issues and serious thinking still hit home in the midst of jokes that made me smile. Laugh or cry? I didn't know what to do as I left the theatre in awe.
(Fool for Love plays at The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th Street, through December 6, 2015. Performances are Tuesdays at 7, Wednesdays at 2 and 8, Thursdays and Fridays at 8, Saturdays at 2 and 8, and Sundays at 2 . Tickets are $75-$150 and are available at telecharge.com or by calling 212.239.6200.)