Review: ‘Fool for Love’ at Princeton Summer Theater in Princeton, NJ

Fool for Love is a pretty short play, and its plot isn’t especially complex: A couple of longtime lovers with a volatile history meet to battle again in a seedy motel room in the Mojave Desert. They argue, sometimes loudly, sometimes violently. They kiss fiercely. They argue again. Hidden truths are revealed. The cycle continues.

Olivia Nice (May) and Matthew Seely (Eddie). Photo by Noel Valero.
Olivia Nice (May) and Matthew Seely (Eddie). Photo by Noel Valero.

But even though the plot isn’t complex, it gives you a lot to think about. May and Eddie detest each other, but they can’t stay away from each other. When one learns the other has cheated, you might think somebody will walk out… but instead they both stick around to hurl more insults at each other.

Just what is it that bonds May and Eddie? Perhaps the gray, shadowy figure sitting in a rocking chair in the corner of their motel room – a character known only as The Old Man – holds the answer.

Fool for Love is sordid, cryptic and disturbing, but in a new production of Sam Shepard’s play at Princeton Summer Theater, it’s also riveting. Director Ogemi Ude creates a thick sense of tension, with passions flaring just often enough to keep the audience on edge.

Olivia Nice and Matthew Seely are well-matched as May and Eddie; Nice’s fiery outbursts contrast effectively with Seely’s brooding, dangerous slow burn. Jake McCready is properly menacing as The Old Man, even when he’s not moving a muscle (which sometimes happens for several minutes at a time). And Connor McElwee serves as a good surrogate for the audience as May’s date for the evening, who is left stunned and wordless by what he observes.

Jeffrey Van Velsor’s motel set creates a suitably seedy backdrop, right down to the cast iron bedframe and the venetian blinds covered with a fine layer of grime. However, a sleek, modern-looking table and set of chairs seem out of place for a room that otherwise looks like it hasn’t been touched in decades.

Matthew Seely (Eddie), Olivia Nice (May), and Connor McElwee .(Martin). Photo by Ogemdi Ude.
Matthew Seely (Eddie), Olivia Nice (May), and Connor McElwee (Martin). Photo by Ogemdi Ude.

Joseph Haggerty’s sound design is filled with spacy, ethereal music that creates an otherworldly feel, taking the audience out of its own existence into the gritty world of two engrossing but troubled lovers who may have gotten the life they deserve.

Fool for Love closes out a strong season for Princeton Summer Theater, filled with shows (Assassins, God of Carnage, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and now Fool for Love) that have been more sophisticated and demanding than the usual summer theatre fare. Here’s hoping the theater continues to stimulate next summer, and here’s hoping that we’ll hear more from the actors who have worked so hard this summer to create some memorable performances.

Running Time: 65 minutes, with no intermission.

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Fool for Love plays through August 14, 2016 at Princeton Summer Theater, performing at Hamilton Murray Theater on the campus of Princeton University in Princeton, NJ. For tickets, call (732) 997-0205, or purchase them online.