BOTTOM LINE: An excellent revival of a typical Western-themed Sam Shepard play, with outstanding performances all around.
Founded scarcely a year ago by Rich Ferraioli and Kirk Gostkowski, Variations Theatre Group got off to a roaring start in 2010 with its first production, The Shape of Things, directed by Ferraioli and starring Gostkowski (see my review of that earlier play). And the dynamic duo hasn't slowed down since.
For their first production of the 2011 season, they selected Fool For Love by Sam Shepard. Originally produced more than a quarter century ago, Fool For Love is somewhat typical of Shepard's American West themed works. Here Eddie (Gostkowski), a rodeo cowboy and "Marlboro Man" wannabe, and May (Christina Elise Perry), whose relationship is more complex than it might at first appear, sustain an angry on-again-off-again, love-hate relationship that is not only interrupted, but accentuated, by the arrival of Martin (Collin Meath), the mild mannered man whom May began to date in Eddie's absence. The cast is rounded out by The Old Man (Charlie Moss), who appears at different times, but only in the imaginations of Eddie and May.
Fool for Love, despite having won an Obie award as best play when it was first produced and going on to become a major motion picture, is not really one of Shepard's best plays. It mostly treads familiar ground, is hackneyed in spots, and isn't as fully realized a work as might be expected from one of America's premier playwrights. But even a relatively inferior Shepard play has much going for it, especially when the play is well-produced.
And here it certainly is well-produced. Ferraioli directed and Gostkowski starred -- just as they did in The Shape of Things -- and much of the credit for the success of this production belongs to them. Perry, Moss and Meath all turn in equally fine performances and also deserve commendation for their work.
(Fool For Love plays at The Access Theatre, 380 Broadway between Walker and White Streets, through March 5, 2011. Performances are February 23rd-27th and March 1st-5th at 8PM and March 5th at 2PM. General admission tickets are $18. Student/Senior tickets are $15. Theatre Professionals (with a resume/headshot) tickets are $15. Tuesdays are Buy One Get One Free. Thursdays are Pay What You Can Nights. TDF vouchers are accepted. Tickets and information are available at www.variationstheatregroup.com or by calling 646.400.3253.)