Theater Review: ‘Fool for Love’

Sam Shepard's "Fool for Love" first debuted on the New York stage off-Broadway in 1983. Thursday night, a new production of the play debuted on Broadway courtesy of the Manhattan Theatre Club. NY1’s Roma Torre filed the following review.

When "Fool for Love" opened at the Circle Rep 32 years ago, it sent shock waves through the theatre community. It was not just because the two doors on stage were rigged to boom loud and long every time the volatile couple at the center of the drama slammed them. Sam Shepard's riff on love in the modern west was quite the brazen work back then. In the current revival, they are still slamming those doors, but the impact is decidedly less arresting 

Set in a dingy motel room on the edge of the Mojave Desert, May and Eddie  have a love/hate relationship. Embracing one minute, they are brawling the next in this tale that owes as much to the Greeks as the American West. Heavy with portent, it is mostly a character study. What is driving their destructive relationship? And who's that mysterious guy sitting on the edge of the stage? The answers do come, but do not expect a tidy story. We are in Shepard territory here; disaffection, alienation, familial bonds - all explored in the context of a region that has lost its romantic pull on our psyche.

Eddie, looking like a cowboy, is actually a rodeo stuntman trapped between reality and fantasy. As he seeks to reconnect with May, his longtime girlfriend. They act up a storm, but the work can feel dramatically inert. Still, the performances are provocative enough to keep us engaged, though the payoff provides little satisfaction. 

Tom Pelphrey as May's dense suitor is excellent, along with Gordon Joseph Weiss. Sam Rockwell does very well with a lasso, capturing the deranged air of a broken cowboy who lost his horse. And Nina Arianda , always a joy to watch, titillates and frustrates as an obsessive woman, desperate to find real love.

Those amped up doors are written in the stage directions by the way. However, amid all that sound and fury, there is not much in this play that resonates beyond some stylish writing and a chance for a quartet of fine actors to strut their stuff.

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