The setting for Sam Shepard'sFool for Love
is fitting: an isolated, shabby motel in the Mojave desert. It's the perfect bubble for a tortured, taboo, and sickly compelling love affair. Unspeakable things, wrong things, happen between people who are under the influence and locked in cheap motel rooms. Here, the drug of choice is obsessive, incestuous love.
Last night, we witnessed the Alliance Theatre Lab's staging of Fool for Love. A red-headed woman in a cheap wife beater. A tall and imposing young man with a wide, thin-lipped smile and a cowboy hat. A bed. And an old man tipping back and forth in a worn wooden rocking chair in a darkened corner of the stage. Watching. Detached.
Not until the actors prompt him does he come to life, uttering some commentary or anecdote. He's like a mechanized dummy that performs a little ditty when
you drop a quarter in it before receding back into a static state. Turns out this old man is the father of the two quarreling lovers on stage.
Eddie (Arturo Fernandez) has just tumbled back into town to
try to reclaim his high school sweetheart (ack, and half sister), May (Jehane
Serralles), after one of many long
and unexplained absences.
Eddie's gangling limbs seem
ruled by a force outside himself --- his movements appear appropriately
involuntary as he grabs his woman by the waist, flings himself onto the
bed, slams doors, and tips a liter of gin upside down over his mouth. His
eyes shine with fantastic dreams and poetic words that seem to strike
May first as romantic, and a moment later, as cruel and repulsive as she
recalls the long string of disappointments.
never going away. I'll track you down, even if you can't stand the sound
of me, the sight of me, or the smell of me," he promises as she beats
him away, a glimmer of reluctance always visible right under the surface
of her expression. Fernandez's delivery is convincing and at times haunting,
most notably in an eerie monologue he performs toward the end of the
love, Serralles strikes a balance between a woman who is desperate to
move on and make good, and a woman who is desperate to lose herself in
the intoxicating and private infatuation that seems to have eaten little
wormholes in her brain.
It must be difficult to play a character who
is also playing a character --- May is trying to come off as
rehabilitated, over the base and lustful relationship she and Eddie
have, but it's clear that at her core, she is stuck.
The bruises on her legs (which appear real) are a testament to the extremely
physical blocking of the play. In line with the script, Eddie and May
are in a constant push and pull, their bodies alternately exploding away
from one another and groping each other hungrily. They execute both
May's new boyfriend,
Martin (Jameson Hammond), bumbles in naively, providing welcome relief
from the infernal feud he unwittingly walks into. His laid-back,
childlike demeanor in the face of the very adult scene he has stumbled
upon is quite humorous at times. He provides necessary neutrality on an
otherwise fully-loaded stage.
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the father (George Schiavone), the root of all the trouble, who leans
back, observing remorselessly as his son and daughter wrestle with each
other in more than one way. When he breaks his silence, his performance
is nothing short of magical, his spindly fingers and his eyes dancing
with gin-soaked nostalgia as he imparts some memory of May's childhood,
the two women he loved, or the old Studebaker he drove. We come to
understand an old fool who lived his life selfishly and caused a lot of
pain, but who was adored, fair or no.
strange and intriguing tale, the one-hour play could have held our
attention for two more. Kudos to director Adalberto J. Acevedo for
bringing this interesting story to a Miami stage and doing it so well.