Fool For Love Is a Dark Tale of Incestuous Romance

The setting for Sam Shepard's Fool 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


Playing the object of his narcissistic

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. 

Then there is

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.

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Camille Lamb Guzman is a journalist who writes on wellness, travel, and culture. She is also finishing a book of creative nonfiction.