Never has the vast and sprawling frontier of Sam Shepard's mythical West felt so claustrophobic. Set in a cheap motel in the Mojave Desert, Fool for Love is a family-style marathon of violence and vitriol, a bloody reminder of the ties that bind. Eddie and May are two lovers who drive each other crazy, but who are drawn together by the grave delirium we sometimes call love. Scott Harrison plays Eddie, a rough and rowdy cowboy-type who drives over 2,000 miles to find his longtime love, May ***image1***(Vanessa Rios y Valles), who's fled to the desert to get away from the insanity of their relationship. Madness ensues and the actors excel by keeping their breathy battles fresh. The accusations are the same throughout, so there's no mistaking that Eddie and May do this dance over and over again, perhaps nightly.
Ghosts haunt this play. Not only the pacts and patterns of the past-invisible and unbreakable bonds of money, education and circumstance-but an authentic otherworldly resignation seeps at the edges. One character in particular, The Old Man (Dan Friedman), haunts the production, disenfranchised but omnipresent. He isn't always as heard or seen as the rest of the cast, but sits on the side of the stage in his own realm. He does speak up for himself, often ferociously, and though Eddie may respond, May never seems to hear him. ***image2***Is he a ghost? A father? A future? A figment of Eddie's imagination?
Truth or illusion is the game. Fool for Love assaults the audience with a tug of war between fantasy and reality. A narrative is declared gospel one minute and dispelled as utter fabrication the next. For this device to work, the plot relies on a pawn, an outsider. May's new boyfriend, the clueless Martin (Eric Kaiser), fits the bill. Eddie and May each have their say about the twisted road that led them, inevitably, to each other while the hapless Martin attempts to decode the veracity of their statements. We the audience are all dumb Martins, petrified by the force of Eddie and May, terrified to take sides, uncertain of the outcome.
It's tempting to call Fool for Love a white-trash Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The parallels are undeniable, especially when The Old Man raises a poignant finger to a convenient Elizabeth Taylor portrait, but Sam Shepard has created something scarier. Where Albee's play offers a catharsis and the chance for redemption, Fool for Love leaves us with only the blueprint for sad lives that have to scrounge for love within the lines.