Fool For Love

BATS Theatre, Wellington

27/07/2006 - 05/08/2006

Production Details

By Sam Shepard
Directed by Julie Noever


Tequila, a ten gauge shotgun, burnt-out plains and broken love in the American Mid-west collide in Sam Shepard’s ferocious play Fool for Love.

May and Eddie thrash out their dysfunctional love story in a beat-up motel room at the edge of the Mojave Desert, entangled in their tumultuous  past and a secret that binds and separates them until love and the terrible truth explodes.

Director Julie Noever, (The Cottage), spent a large portion of her childhood in Atlanta, the heartland of southern USA. This connection to America, her obsession with Americana, cowboys and the belief that NZ needs more country music compelled Julie to direct this relentless and surreal dark comedy.

Sam Shepard is one of America’s leading contemporary playwrights.  In his plays he demonstrates his interest in popular American culture and the folklore of the American South-west: through the use of imaginative language, composed of slang, scientific jargon, B-movie dialogue, and Rock and Roll idioms; as well as a stage peopled with farmers, devils, witch-doctors, rock stars, space men, cowboys, gangsters and other American stereotypes.

Fool for Love is brought to life by the talented cast of Rob Lloyd, K.C. Kelly, Jade Daniels and Rachel Forman. Rachel studied in America at the prestigious Black Nexxus Actor’s Studio while K.C. Kelly is a well known thespian from the US, who teaches at Toi Whakaari, New Zealand Drama School. The play’s designer, Leo Gene Peters, is another versatile talent from America, now emerging in the Wellington theatre community.

May - Rachel Forman
Eddie - Rob Lloyd
The Old Man - K.C. Kelly
Martin - Jade Daniels

Lighting & Set Design - Leo Gene Peters
Operator & Stage Manager - Jimmy Sutcliffe
Producer - L'hibou Hornung
Publicity - Brianne Kerr
Poster Design - Spitzer

Theatre ,

1 hr 15 mins, no interval

Obssessive, illicit, compelling

Review by John Smythe 02nd Aug 2006

Being an actor too, Sam Shepard is an actors’ playwright. He challenges directors and designers as well, but his primary focus is on characters and relationships. A master of the short-form play, he characterises his America through people and stories that resound with a ‘you’d better believe it’ authenticity that inevitably resonates beyond the immediate circumstance.

While his plays prove, in principle, that a culturally specific work can strike universal chords, our part of the world has seen many substandard attempts to stage them. Too often they have been about doing the accent, or allowing the non-naturalistic elements to distort the style away from recognising real human experience.

But Julie Noever, who directs this Fool For Love, spent a large portion of her childhood in Atlanta USA and retains a fascination for the southern states culture. Actress Rachel Forman trained at the Black Nexxus studio (which operates in NYC and LA). Actor K C Kelly is American and so is designer Leo Gene Peters. Little wonder, then, that the other two actors, Robert Lloyd and Jade Daniels, ring very true too in a production that finds the play’s festering core.

The focus is on obsessive and illicit love. May and Eddie have been addicted to each other since they first met as teenagers. But he has this habit of filling her life with visceral energy then leaving. So she swears off him, tries to get on with an ordinary life … But when he returns … she tries to resist … And her very ambivalence helps to ensure the same cycle will be repeated.

Initially the simple fact that their co-dependence is bad for both of them is explanation enough. But eventually another reason their love can go nowhere positive emerges – one I should not reveal here. Suffice to say it lends itself to seeing the play as an allegory for the USA’s inordinate preoccupation with itself, to the extent that outsiders – like guest characters in a soap opera – are invariably doomed. A particular kind of delusion festers that endangers all who cross the core cast’s inexorable progress (if that’s the right word).

Not that there is any evidence Shepard consciously crafted Fool For Love with that allegorical resonance. He thrashed it out in the wake of leaving one actress wife, O-Lan Jones, for another: Jessica Lange. The play, he wrote to his friend and sometime collaborator Joe Chaikin (founder of the Open Theatre), was “the outcome of all this tumultuous feeling I’ve been going through this past year … It’s a very emotional play and in some ways embarrassing for me to witness but somehow necessary at the same time.”

But the play does distil an essence of being that transcends the circumstances of its birth, and Julie Noever and her cast get to the heart of it with impressive directness.

Ranging from quiet to loud, demanding to dismissive, gentle to dangerous, Robert Lloyd is always compelling as Eddie, the lariat-swinging rodeo cowboy with a truck and horse trailer outside, who claims to have come 2,480 miles out of his way to see May.

As the volatile object of his compulsion, Rachel Forman is undeniably real as she fights her vulnerability with a yearning passion that easily turns malevolent. One minute all-powerful, the next pathetic, she rides the pendulum of dependent love to great effect.

Seated in the shadows an old man – or rather The Old Man – appears to inhabit Eddie’s mind, then May’s too … He’s not physically present but permeates their very being … In K C Kelly’s capable hands he’s a regular, delusional, self-serving guy who meant no harm and now is morbidly fascinated to observe the downstream consequences …

Not wanting any trouble, just there to take May to the movies, is the even more regular Martin – “a ‘guy’ or a ‘man’?” demands Eddie. Sincerely pitched by Jade Daniels, his attempts to resist provocation and maintain equilibrium win both empathy and sympathy.

Outside, in an extra-long black Mercedes Benz, is the “rich pussy” whose headlights shine menacingly through the seedy motel’s glass door from time to time: brilliantly rendered by set and lighting designer Leo Gene Peters. The unseen siren’s incendiary jealousy counterpoints Martin’s attempts to be mild: alien threats at two extremes.

The USA is up for scrutiny in Wellington theatre this year. Taken together, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (Circa), Edward Albee’s The Goat (Downstage) and Sam Shepard’s Fool For Love (BATS) paint a bleak picture of the state of that nation. Yet by their very existence these plays reassure us that live theatre, at least, can deliver the self-awareness and socio-political confrontation the political machine itself cannot.


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A seedy kind of love story

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 02nd Aug 2006

Sam Shepard, the dramatic poet of seedy motels, dusty small towns of the Midwest and the dark side of the American Dream, demands that his long one-act play Fool for Love be performed relentlessly without a break. Julie Noever and her first-rate cast of four actors carry this off brilliantly.

The play is a love story set in a cheap motel room in the middle of Mojave Desert. The problem is that the lovers, May and Eddie, are half-brother and sister and they tear each other apart when they are together and yet are unable to live without each other. For fifteen years May has been a yo-yo to Eddie while he has been working in a rodeo show. He has travelled back yet again to be with May who is about to go out on a first date with another man. At the same time Eddie is being pursued by a sinister, revenge-fuelled Countess in a black Mercedes Benz.

Hovering in the minds of both May and Eddie is their father, simply called The Old Man, who sits in a rocking chair knocking off a bottle of whiskey and seeing reality in the fantasy of his imagination and demanding from his children that his side of the story be told. This spectral paterfamilias is played with great authority as well as a dry comic edge by KC Kelly. His speech in which the Old Man describes a walk at night with his young daughter is spellbinding.

Despite looking a bit young for their roles, Robert Lloyd and Rachel Forman as Eddie and May throw themselves emotionally and physically into their tricky characters with an abandon that is gripping, apposite and theatrically valid, while Jade Daniels makes Martin, May’s date, a decent, conventional young man totally out of his depth in this tempestuous relationship.

While some of Sam Shepard’s demands in his script – a booming noise every time a door is slammed – have been avoided, the essence of this realistic/ fantastical/ symbolic/ comic play has been captured in these commanding performances.


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