Fool for Love explores a dark romance
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Fool for Love.
The stage is dark as a mysterious figure (junior musical theatre major Nick Sacks) dressed in all black paces the stage slowly. No context is given as the lights are turned on to reveal a defunct motel room in the middle of Nowhere, U.S.A. The School of Drama’s production of Fool For Love, which ran in the Phillip Chosky Theater from Nov. 5th through Nov. 7th certainly brought the location to life. The production designers really went to town on that set. If you don’t get the impression that the hotel room is dilapidated, then you are clinically blind. Go see a doctor.
The play opens up with May (junior acting major Kelsey Tarantino), a chef barely making ends meet, clinging to Eddie (junior acting major Casey Cott), a confident Hollywood stuntman, in desperation barely saying a word. Then like a short-circuited switch, she flips. She starts berating him about his alleged fling with “The Countess,” assumedly another Hollywood type that he met while away working in Hollywood. This fling is a point of contention, since May and Eddie had made a pact. A pact for what? I don’t know. There was a lot to be inferred in this play. The pact was probably to stay faithful to one another in some way, though the jury is still out as to whether he slept with her or actually only went on the two dates he alleged they went on. Eddie promised that “The Countess” meant nothing and it was May who was always on his mind.
Eddie then tries to convince May to live with him in a trailer in Wyoming. But that is automatically shut down because May says she would get bored. Still a little irked by Eddie’s public flirtation with “The Countess,” May reveals that she has been seeing another “man.” Not a guy, but a man. And because May did not call him a “guy,” Eddie remains unfazed and still believes that she is in love with him. To Eddie, “guy” signals an actual attraction and “man” signals mere respect. Eddie leaves to get a gun and some alcohol from his car. He cleans his gun and guzzles the alcohol when he comes back in the room — an indication that Eddie is still slightly insecure and feels threatened by this other “man” and that she actually has moved on.
At this point in the play, the mysterious man reappears; only this time, he interacts with Eddie and Eddie acknowledges him. They have a drink and the man throws his hat at him. So who is this guy? What is he? Usually, ghosts are portrayed in this way, but why is he able to make contact with the physical world? He seems like he is a family member or a good friend. The audience can tell there is some history between them, but his purpose is still unknown at this point.
The next sequence of events is a series of slammed doors, yelling matches, and returned departures. Eddie continues to lean and slouch his way across the set, as May is constantly on the defense with a tense and stiff disposition and the quintessential damsel in distress southern accent.
This sequence is suddenly interrupted when a pair of headlights flashes through the window. Eddie assumes it’s the “man” that May has been seeing, but suddenly ducks down when he sees the car. May then runs to the window and sees it’s a black limo Mercedes-Benz, a car belonging to The Countess. Eddie shuts the lights off and ducks down as bullet shots are fired. It clearly did not end well for these two. Eddie and May stay piled on one another until Eddie believes The Countess is gone. He turns the lights back on and looks out the window to see that his windshield and the horse hitch on the back of his truck are completely destroyed, though Eddie seems to not be as mad as he should. It appears that he might have expected something like this to happen.
This scene sparks another fight in which Eddie and May go back and forth internally asking them why they are so drawn to one another. They are always fighting, but they can’t be without one another. It’s a volatile relationship to say the least.
Enter the “man,” Martin (junior acting major Sam McInerney), who with looks alone is completely different from Eddie. Eddie wears a white tank top, worn-in jeans, a denim jacket, a cowboy hat, and cowboy boots with spurs. Martin has perfectly coifed hair, is clean-shaven, and wears a track jacket, sneakers, and a plaid button down tucked into his khaki cargo pants. Martin is a square while Eddie is a wrinkled circle. Instantaneously, Eddie assesses Martin and is reassured of his place. Eddie knows that May will never be happy with Martin, and for most of the scenes Martin and Eddie have together, Eddie rests on the floor unconcerned. To Eddie, when someone is standing, it indicates tension. So now that he believes Martin poses no threat, he is relieved and practically glued to the floor.
As May joins the mix, so does the mysterious man. He starts telling a story that seems to captivate both May and Eddie, but Martin is completely oblivious. He goes through this long speech, which ultimately concludes with the reveal that the mysterious man is both May and Eddie’s father. Twist à la August: Osage County and cue an audible gasp from the audience. It’s clear now that the mysterious figure is not a ghost nor a spirit, but the manifestation of an absentee father.
May and Eddie, at this point, are forced to confront their feelings. Safe to say, the two of them are not completely comfortable with that reality. They realize at this point that their relationship is not safe. Eddie says he is briefly going out to his car and will be back, but May knows better. Eddie is gone for good. And in an action that totally befuddles me, May follows him out the door with suitcase in hand. The ending was completely beyond me, yet I found it very profound and compelling.
Sam Shepard wrote Fool for Love as part of the “dirty realism” literary movement. It is more than just a love story, it is an in-depth study of the effect of hidden motives and the subconscious. Tarantino and Cott fantastically communicated that in their performances. They both disappeared into their role to represent the minutiae of a relationship. I often forgot that the actors and the characters were two separate people. The costumes in part had to do with the transformation. Dressing Eddie in an over-the-top cowboy outfit and May in a slinky satin nightgown established the characters quite quickly and let the audience pay attention to the dialogue, rather than the costumes. Overall, this play had good direction, production design, costumes, and acting. Next time Fool for Love comes to the Purnell stage, I greatly encourage you to go watch.