Boxcar Theatre brings Sam Shepard’s ‘Fool For Love’ to intense and absurd life

(Charles Kruger)

This reviewer is a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

“Fool For Love” by Sam Shepard, produced by Boxcar Theatre. Director: Nick A. Olivero. Assistant Director: Barry Eitel. Technical Director: Bert van Aalsburg. Set Designer: Nick A. Olivero. Lighting Designer: Maxwell Ross Pierson. Costume Designer: Stacy Stagnaro. Sound Designer: Teddy Husker.

May: Lauren Doucette. Eddie: Brian Trybom. Old Man: Jeff Garrett. Martin: Geoffrey Nolan.

(Rating: 4/5 Stars » Well Worth Seeing)

With this production of Fool For Love, Boxcar Theatre‘s artistic director Nick A. Olivero continues the ambitious project of producing four Sam Shepard plays in repertory. Previously this season, Boxcar has staged True West and Buried Child. Reviews of those ongoing productions can be found here and here.

As with the previous two plays, Fool For Love is a family drama. And, as elsewhere in Shepard’s ouvre, the family in question is, well, a long way from the Cleavers. Come to think of it, next to Shepard’s family specimens, the Bundy’s of Married With Children are Norman Rockwell perfect.

The company of Boxcar Theatre's production of Sam Shepard's "Fool For Love" (l to r): Geoffrey Nolan as Martin, Director Nick A. Olivero, Jeff Garrett as the Old Man, Lauren Doucette as May and Brian Trybom as Eddie. Photo Credit: Boxcar Theatre

Eddie (Bryan Trybom) shows up unexpectedly to May’s (Lauren Doucette) motel room and is greeted with both explosive anger and lustful passion. These two people are passionately, overwhelmingly, irrisistably in love and lust, obvious puppets in the hands of the gods. They can’t be together and they can’t be apart. Their tug of war lovemaking both engages and repels the viewer. One asks: “What the <bleep> is wrong with these two?”

An Old Man (Jeff Garrett) appears on the scene making mysterious comments that at first confuse and gradually enlighten. But is he really there? Or is he a figment of imagination? (In a very smart bit of staging, director Nick A. Olivero has the Old Man appear as a character on the TV screen, interrupting the non-stop background of old western movies. This is not in the script; in most productions, the geezer just wanders about seemingly in the flesh, like a ghost or a nightmare. Olivero’s innovation works beautifully.) The Old Man could be a hallucination or a memory. He could be nobody or he could be  Eddie’s Dad. Or is he May’s Dad? Or what?

The drama is complicated by a woman (“the Duchess”) who never appears onstage, but seems to be stalking Eddie. During the course of the play she blows up his truck. May, on the other hand, is awaiting her nebbish of a date, Martin (Geoffrey Nolan), who arrives only to be confronted with an angry and violent Eddie, whom May introduces as her cousin.

This is theatre of the absurd, appearing on the surface to be realistic, but then incorporating plot twists and characters (an Old Man who appears on the TV screen) that make no sense in a realistic drama. The playwright intentionally confuses the audience with laughter, unpredictability, absurdities and shock.

When theatre of the absurd is staged succesfully, as in this production, it works entertainment wonders.

The cast handles the intense emotional demands (lust, anger, fear, desperation) skillfully. The story is well told. The playwright would be proud. Fool For Love continues in repertory with other Sam Shepard plays through April 26, 2012. For further information, click here.

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