Fool For Love - Elizabeth Ahlfors
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
A Manhattan Theater Club presentation, in association with Williamstown Theater Festival
261 -West 47nd Street
October 8, 2015 through December 13, 2015
1 hour, 15 min. No intermission
Love is "the absolute hell," says Sam Shepard, whose revival of Fool for Love brings in the combative lovers to battle their demons and desires on the stage of the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Apparently, the heightened passion of Shepard's 1983 play was inspired by his own marital situation when he left his wife for an affair with Jessica Lange.
The role of Eddie seems written for Rockwell's easy, macho cowpoke manner, with his loping walk and legs slightly bowed. He arrives after having driven almost 3,000 miles to hunt down May, determined to bring her home to their trailer in Wyoming. When she refuses to go, the battles begin, Eddie thrusting May across the room, banging her into walls, slamming doors. May, with Arianda's agility, gives as good as she gets with her own wiry rugged moves, stopping him once with a knee to the groin. When Eddie turns his back and heads for the door, she streaks across the room, leaps on his back and hangs on. She wants him to stay, she wants him to go. He threatens her with some fancy lasso maneuvers. They make fast, almost violent love and then go back to battling. David S. Leong's fight sequences are exhausting and jacked up with Ryan Rumery's amplified booming door slams.
Oddly, as theatrically bruising as this relationship is, there is a sub-current of alienation hovering below the surface. The acting is convincing, and Arianda is as physically robust and limber as always and yet, like a needy child, she retreats to hunch over in the corner or huddle on the bed. Rockwell can certainly defend himself against his girlfriend's fury but is firmly zeroed in on his original goal, to bring her home to Wyoming. As May's date, Tom Pelphrey is far less splashy, but convincing in his bland direct manner.
Director David Aukin keeps the puzzling pieces in place and paces the play with tension. He designed a down-trodden set for this disaffecting tale, tracing the passing hours with lighting by Justin Townsend.
Sam Shepard's "Fool for Love" first debuted on the New York stage off-Broadway in 1983. Last year this production originated at the Williamstown Theater Festival.
A romance? No, an obsession and a well-acted character story of disaffected people who do not ride off into the sunset but are obviously bound, loving and hating, right to the end.
This review also appears in TotalTheater.com