Sam Shepard’s 1983 one-act play, Fool for Love, is now playing at Port City Playhouse. This talented four-person cast, directed by Jon Townson, lights up the intimate space in the Lab at Convergence. Under Townson’s excellent direction, the cast does an exemplary job showing a wide range of emotional and even physical changes.
Set Designer David Corriea realistic set, a run-down motel room, includes special touches like smudged fingerprints over the light switch, crooked wall hangings, broken venetian blinds, an unkempt twin-sized bed, and furniture that could have come from the forgotten back room of a thrift shop.
Corriea, also the Sound Designer, set the mood with an opening song by Merle Haggard, “Remember Me, I Am the One Who Loves You” – which he explained was specifically written into the script. Lighting Designer Allan Sean Weeks supplies the neon sign outside of the motel window, leaving no doubt the motel is on the wrong side of the tracks. Later in the show, Weeks creates a sense of chaos, when we see lights from a blazing fire outside. Stage Manager, Margaret Evans-Joyce, excelled at ensuring no hiccups occurred, and props and queues were handled seamlessly.
Costume Designer Mary Beth Smith-Toomey ensured special touches were apparent in establishing the characters – Eddie’s hair and costume leaves no doubt of the long distance he traveled to reach May. He is unshaven with messy hair, and his jeans are filthy. Meg is prissy, with curled hair and bangs, in a crisp, lacy white blouse with a bow at the neck that she later will seductively untie to woo Eddie. Her clean, new cowboy boots are a startling contrast to Eddie’s cowboy boots, one of which is held together with duct tape. Ed’s shabby appearance in contrast to the pretty red dress Meg will later wear, prove how truly far apart these lovers have grown.
The plot revolves around Eddie (Ryan Sullivan), having driven an astonishing 2,480 miles to win May (Melissa Dunlap) back. However, May has made a life for herself, and a home, in this dingy motel. She cannot forgive him for his affair with a woman they call “The Countess,” an unseen but important character in the story. The plot has a shocking twist that surprised me, a twist which will explain so much about this torrid relationship.
Sullivan’s Eddie is cocky and determined, yet quite smooth and relaxed – until later in the show when “The Countess” is introduced.
May, Eddie, and The Old Man are on stage when the lights come up, but The Old Man (Richard Fiske) sits apart from May and Eddie. Fiske looks every bit the part, with a full beard and cowboy hat, wearing a comfortable flannel shirt, relaxing in a rocking chair, a bottle of liquor within reaching distance. His Old Man is stoic, confident, and yet very energetic during his monologues, quickening the pace of his speech in excitement, standing up straight, becoming defiant at times. Fiske does a commendable job staying in character, while he faces the audience most of the time.
Props Designer, Brooke Angel, supplies some special touches for Fiske, such as a bottle of Jack Daniels and an extra-large Styrofoam cup, which The Old Man often clutches with both hands when he drinks.
To May, the chaos is normal, almost comfortable, a testament to this truly codependent and dysfunctional relationship. Dunlap perfects Meg’s nasty glare and shouts meanly at Eddie; Dunlap alternates between leaning so far forward in her chair to spit vitriol at him that it appeared she might fall off of her seat; later, she clenches the seat so tightly in anxiety, it’s as if she were on a roller coaster holding on for dear life. Dunlap’s succeeds in maintaining the passion of the character all through her performance.
Despite the high intensity, there are moments of levity in the show. Eddie, in a drunken state, loses his balance and falls more than once. Director, Jon Townson, and Sullivan perfected the blocking to the point you will ask yourself if the fall was actually part of the script – or a mistake – it is so believable.
There is a scene where Eddie leaves only to return with a shogun and bottle of tequila to wait for her date, Martin (Jeffrey Smith). As May waits for Martin to arrive, you can feel the tension increasing, a gun is involved after all. When Smith’s Martin enters the stage, he portrays a genuinely nice guy and immediately falls into the role of rescuer – at first believing Meg to be in danger. Smith delivers a fine performance, and the direction is superb.
After the curtain call and a long round of applause, we heard Merle Haggard again, this time with another song specially called for in the script called “Wake Up.” Director Jon Townson asks, “Have YOU ever done anything that was foolish, for love? If not, what are you waiting for?”
Port City Playhouse’s Fool for Love is emotionally charged with timeless themes of co-dependence, abandonment, and attachment. This powerful story, superb acting, and direction will stay with me and you long after the curtain call is over.
Running Time: 75 minutes, with no intermission.