Review: Irrational or Not, the Heart Goes Where it Will in “Fool For Love”

"Fool for Love" presented by Heritage Theatre Group.

Love is powerful. Love can be tender and nourishing. It can provide those idealized feelings so often shown in Hallmark commercials and romantic films. Lest we forget that power can also be unleashed in destructive and irrational ways, well, American playwright Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love (1983) will remind us as much.

Heritage Theatre Group presents the play in the upstairs black box space at Spectrum Theatre, a very good choice for this production. The intimacy of the small space brings the audience right into the grungy hotel room with Eddie (Matt Simpson Siegel) and May (Brooke Bruce). Or maybe it’s more like we are in the room next door, deciding whether we need to call the cops or give these two lovers their privacy. The Old Man (Gary E. Mitchell) helps us decide maybe we are in a space somewhere in between as he sits off to the side in his chair sipping booze and occasionally hacking into both Eddie and May’s personal narrative.

Just at the point where Eddie and May could use a real audience in the motel room to whom they can argue their version of the twisted love story, in walks Martin (Michael Kohlenberger). Actually, he barges in, sort of relieving the audience’s collective guilt for not intervening sooner. It’s not long before he finds out though, this ain’t your average, run-of-the-mill domestic dispute.

The Old Man (Gary E. Mitchell) in "Fool for Love."
The Old Man (Gary E. Mitchell) in “Fool for Love.”

Director Rachel Finan and her team understand the important placement of doors, windows and objects in the old motel room, where the entire 75-minute play unfolds without intermission. Like the rodeos in which Eddie apparently performs, the characters are thrown into the arena to circulate, overpower, entice, dodge, toy with, subdue, and pretty much exhaust each other while contained within. We realize it never really ends, someone just leaves the arena for a while.

It’s in those interactions that a rhythm develops, where we unpack this uncomfortable idea of love and the complicated ways it manifests itself. The challenge of Shepard’s play is to tap intuitively into that rhythm, into the high and low pulse of human desires, passions, needs, weaknesses, heartbreaks, and transgressions.

At Wednesday night’s preview performance, some of the strongest moments happen when spoken from the floor, from a more vulnerable place perhaps, where the audience finds unexpected empathy and familiarity with these lost souls; we’re invested in this crazy rodeo now and just need to hold on long enough to get through the intense, emotionally-charged conclusion.

Fool for Love runs through Aug. 4 at Spectrum’s Black Box Theatre. Ticket information at heritagetheatregr.org.

*Photos courtesy of Heritage Theatre Group

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