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Sam Shepard’s FOOL FOR LOVE at convergence-continuum

Sam Shepard’s FOOL FOR LOVE at convergence continuum, Bob Abelman speaks on reviewing 

Roy Berko

(Member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle)

Sam Shepard, the author of FOOL FOR LOVE, which is now in production at convergence continuum, described the script as “a very emotional play and in some ways embarrassing for me to witness but somehow necessary at the time.”  The time was shortly after breaking up his marriage to be with another woman.

Much like the other plays in his Family Trilogy series, which is actually a collection of five plays (BURIED CHILD, CURSE OF THE STARVING CLASS, TRUE WEST, A LIE OF THE MIND, and FOOL FOR LOVE) Shepard creates an allegory for his own loss and love, complete with a manic depiction of ill-fated passion.

His characters often reflect his family and personal life.   He started to work on a ranch as a teenager to support his mother and brother when his father lost their farm.  The father Shepard described as “a drinking man dedicated to being an alcoholic.” His dysfunctional relationship with his father is often front-and-center in his writing.

In FOOL FOR LOVE, which takes place in a run-down motel in the Mojave Desert, May is hiding out.  She has fled from Eddie,  her childhood friend, old flame and half-brother.  Theirs is a love-hate relationship in which they are bound to each other out of desperation. (May knowingly shouts at Eddie, “you are like a disease to me.”) May left their trailer home and proportes that she wants to start a new life,  A life without Eddie.  But, they simply cannot break their destructive cycle.  As they conflict, their father watches over them, commenting on the actions, challenging the stories told and their interpretations.

As is true in most Shepard plays, the characters, rather than the plot, is of greatest importance.  There are no issues that will be resolved, no happily ever after solution. In fact, as the play ends, Martin, May’s new “guy” watches out the window as Eddie’s truck and horse trailer go up in flames and May flees, but there is no clarity as to where or from what?

Watching a Shepard play is an experience in emotional tumult where identity is vague, truth and lies blur, and the characters pasts haunt their present.  Memories are altered to suite the needs of the dreamer telling the tale and are often idealized.

FOOL FOR LOVE had its off-Broadway premiere in 1983 and moved to a Broadway theatre later that year with a cast of Ed Harris and Kathy Baker.  A 1985 film version starred Shepard himself with Kim Basinger.

Shepard is extremely prolific.  He won the Pulitzer Prize for BURIED CHILD, an Academy Award for Best Supporting actor in THE RIGHT STUFF, a Tony Award in Playwrighting for BURIED CHILD, and an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in DASH AND LILLY.

The fifty-five minute con-con production, under the direction of Amy Bistok Bunce, creates a surface level glance at Shepard’s world. Shepard has said of his characters, and this is true in FOOL FOR LOVE, that he doesn’t expect an audience to identify with his characters.  These are not real people, they are unidentifiable fragments of Shepard’s life and imagination.

Rachel Lee Kolis is believable as the almost psychotic May, who finds herself unable to come to terms with reality and move to save herself from a life of chaotic frustration.

Clint Elston stays close to the surface as Eddie, never totally encompassing the nuances of the character.

Robert Hawkes rocks away on his chair, drinking booze, on a platform overlooking the action, and comments with ease on the machinations of May, Eddie and his own life.

Stuart Hoffman well develops Martin, May’s possible suitor, as an innocent-simple who gets overwhelmed by stepping into a situation beyond his understanding.

Capsule Judgement:  Sam Shepard is noted for taking audiences on illusionary trips.  FOOL FOR LOVE is yet another example of con-con asking the audience ”to extend the conventional boundaries of language, structure, space and performances that challenge the conventional notions of what theatre is.”  It’s a production steeped in Shepard writing Shepard, which is missing some of his intended nuance.

FOOL FOR LOVE runs through December 21 at 8 pm Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at convergence-continuum’s artistic home, The Liminis, at 2438 Scranton Rd. in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood. For information and reservations call 216-687-0074.