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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents Sam Shepard's "Fool for Love" at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents Sam Shepard's "Fool for Love" at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

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Manhattan Theatre Club
in association with
Williamstown Theatre Festival

Fool for Love
(Fool for Love Website)

By Sam Shepard
Directed by Daniel Aukin

Lynn Meadow, Artistic Director
Barry Grove, Exec. Producer

At the
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th Street

Nina Arianda, Sam Rockwell
Tom Pelphrey, Gordon Joseph Weiss

Scenic Design: Dane Laffrey
Costume Design: Anita Yavich
Lighting Design: Justin Townsend
Sound Design: Ryan Rumery
Movement and Fights: David S. Leong
Production Stage Manager: Kyle Gates
Original Casting: Calleri Casting
Additional Casting: Nancy Piccione
General Manager: Florie Seery
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Director of Artistic Operations: Amy Gilkes Loe
Director of Marketing: Debra Waxman-Pilla
Director of Play Development: Elizabeth Rothman
Director of Development: Lynne Randall
Production Manager: Joshua Helman
Line Producer: Nicki Hunter

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 9, 2015

Sam Shepard’s one-act, 1983 Fool for Love takes place in a dingy, spartan motel room “on the edge of the Mojave Desert”. The sagging bed, metal table with chairs, and bland easy chair could be Salvation Army rejects. Dane Laffrey has decorated this evocative set with a wound-up lasso against the wall, a door to a parking lot, and Woolworth-worthy, framed photos placed here or there on the faded walls. The curtain opens to find the always magnetic Nina Arianda (May), with her head fallen onto the end of the bed, in a brief nightgown, facing away from Sam Rockwell (Eddie), who slowly attempts to restart the physicality, when May kicks him between his thighs. As the play progresses, we learn that May’s father had abandoned the family, as had Eddie’s. Alone, in the corner of the room is a bereaved old man (Gordon Joseph Weiss), mostly silent. When he speaks, we know he’s an otherworldly character, there to glue plot details and make sense of May and Eddie’s existential angst.

Within the wrenching back story, Eddie and May had known each other as children, May’s mother had taken her own life, Eddie and May were always in approach-avoidance, sexual conflicts, and now, Eddie wants to take May home to a rural-bound trailer. He has her in the motel room, and, if necessary, will make good use of his lasso. As the audience witnesses, Mr. Rockwell can spin that lasso like a pro and grab hold of an empty metal chair, yanking it hard and fast. Two additional characters appear, one off stage and one on. Martin (Tom Pelphrey), May’s new budding romance, is arriving for a pre-planned date for a movie, so May puts on a slinky, little red dress and fixes her hair and makeup, tormenting Eddie beyond his capacity. There’s talk of a shot gun, a vision of the lasso, and liquor flowing. The Countess, the offstage character, is hunting down Eddie, jealous of May, and much tumult ensues when she drives up and tries to do them in. All the while the Old Man watches, waits, and occasionally soliloquizes.

Mr. Rockwell delivers a swaggering, searing performance, replete with taut facial veins, under his cowboy hat, and gestural, vulnerable body language, as he walks the tightrope between desire and danger. Ms. Arianda, as always, draws the eye and rivets the imagination, as one wonders if she’ll run with Martin, succumb to Eddie, or choose to go it alone. Mr. Pelphrey, in his brief stage time, proves that he’s perfectly cast as the outsider, looking into the airless bubble, where the star-crossed lovers reside. Mr. Weiss, in a difficult, mostly still and silent role, made his presence critical, during meandering segments of clear monologue. Daniel Aukin has splendidly directed to allow for pauses and silent interludes. The audience has time to breathe, thankfully, because the offstage action, with the help of Ryan Rumery’s precise sound design, makes one grippingly breathless. Also, the tortuous push-pull of May and Eddie is relentlessly fraught, with Mr. Aukin’s compelling direction. Anita Yavich’s costumes are true to the scene, and Justin Townsend’s lighting is stark, like an operating room. Kudos to all.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at