Alchemist’s “Fool for Love”; too cool?
A sultry Friday night provided the perfect ambiance for Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love, at the Alchemist Theatre. This 1983 Western of words about conflicted relationships plays out in a seedy motel on the edge of the Mohave Desert.
Bo Johnson directed and designed the scenery, a beat-up motel room. Its burnt umber walls, patched at about where a foot would kick through, remind us of those monotonous Western landscapes. The motel door periodically opens to total darkness and repeatedly slams to punctuate the desperate dialogue.
Eddie (Alex Grindeland) and May (Bethany Ligocki Peters) are long term lovers. They’re also half-brother and sister. But there’s a new suitor, Martin (Derek Burton Morris).
After an extended separation, Eddie returns from a rodeo tour with his truck and horses. He’s intent on rekindling his relationship with May. But it’s now as desiccated as the parched desert. He brings in a shotgun with very long double barrels, and a rope he for lassoing the bedposts. He’s the vestige of all-American, Western virtue: a truck driving, gun-totting, lasso throwing, straight tequila drinking cowboy in a dull plaid shirt with no place else to go but to a crumby motel room, to make a life with his half-sister.
There’s an allusion to a countess with whom Eddie has had a fleeting affair. Unseen but for a flash of headlights on the room’s window, she happens by and shoots out Eddie’s windshield. Enter Martin, May’s date. He’s a big, gentle guy who can’t decide what movie he’ll take May to because he doesn’t know what she wants to see. His interaction with his competitor barely rises beyond the rational. That bottle of tequila smooths things out as the two men commiserate while their mutual object of desire eavesdrops from the bathroom. They share May as a point of convergence, but ultimately, she’ll make a choice.
The play’s Virginia Woolf-like premise and powerful tension are grueling, but even so, this cast seems under-wrought. Ligocki Peters’ May maintains a singular, disconnected mode. As the focal point of two lovers, she seems aloof. She’s young and attractive, and her big monologue defines a passionate past with Eddie. With the big bed in the motel room, the sexual tension should be palpable. It isn’t. Maybe that’s the point.
Grindeland and Morris deliver their characters with conviction. Their relationship actually develops more depth than either has with May. But, despite what amounts to male bonding, their chemistry is muted as well. And yet…
The 60-minute piece ends suddenly. The discomfort it evokes endures somewhat longer.
Fool for Love runs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through June 18, with a Sunday matinee at 4 p.m. on June 12. Tickets are $15 if purchased online or $17 at the door.