Shadows And Artifice On The Edge Of The Desert
Alchemist Theatre's FOOL FOR LOVE
Somewhere in the middle of the hottest days of the year, the Alchemist Theatre stages a drama set in a run-down little motel on the edge of the great American desert. Fool For Love is an interesting study in artifice. One of playwright Sam Shepard'Âs least accomplished dramas, Fool For Love registers a particularly weak note for the acclaimed playwright who seemed to be desperately reaching for the inspiration that had animated earlier successes like Buried Child and True West. In a brief, slow-moving story without many moving parts, Shepard tells the tale of a couple of people lost somewhere between being family, being lovers and being something else entirely. A father figure and an innocent bystander seemed to have been added as a ghostly afterthought.
The Alchemist Theatre production of Fool For Love fits raggedly around a haphazard script. The set is certainly squalid enough. Half-hearted southwestern themes desperately cling to a faded hotel room. Everything looks breathtakingly cheap. During the performance I saw, a slammed door caused a bit of crown molding to come loose and hang over the doorway. There'Âs nothing artificially stagy about the production it all feels very, very well worn. It's a very organic feel that director Bo Johnson does an excellent job of assembling in the ensemble onstage.
As the play opens, we see May (Bethany Ligocki Peters) and Eddie (Alex Grindeland) arguing in the hotel room. May has settled into the American wasteland. Is evidently working as a cook--Âat least, that'Âs what she tells Eddie. Eddie drove a long way to meet May. He wants her to run away with him Âtrying to bring her into his faded dreams. The two characters are hashing through things they quite possibly may have said a million times before, so any lack of emotion--Âany artificial feel in the performance actually kind of feels authentic here. In certain places, the chemistry between Grindeland feels very much like they'Âre simply running lines, but realy, that'Âs all these two characters are doing, so even the inauthentic feel of their dialogue feels kind of authentic. These are two actors playing two people playing roles.
Two actors and two characters restlessly posturing on the edge of the desert in motions that feel old and tired. When Grindeland and Peters occasionally hit on something that feels tied to deeper passion, it adds considerably to the depth of the drama. Mostly, though, this is two people pretending to be two people who are pretending to be two characters who are themselves trying to be people they don'Ât have the comprehension to try to define for the outside world.
The language feels particularly authentic when characters move off into monologue--Âdetailing dreams and passions that they'Âve concocted beyond the interaction. Grindeland's delivery of some of the more solitary bits of dialogue is particularly moving. And then there'Âs Jeff Ircink as the father figure. The character is kind of a lazy addition on the part of Shepard, but Ircink manages to make the character one of the more appealing aspects of the production. He's kind of a world-weary Sam Elliott-type--old, western wisdom trapped in the myopic stillness that will ultimately kill the American West that Shepard seems so fond of.
Derek Burton Morris rounds out the cast as a guy--Âor man--May has asked out. Morris is excellent here, making the best of an exceedingly peripheral role as a truly nice guy lost in the bizarre mutated passions that haunt the lives of the other three characters.
Alchemist Theatre'Âs production of Fool For Love runs through June 18th. For reservations, visit the Alchemist online. A far more eloquent, more concise review of the show runs in the next Shepherd-Express.