Saturday, October 10, 2015

Fool for Love (Manhattan Theatre Club)

By Harry Forbes

Nina Arianda and Sam Rockwell are perfectly matched as May and Eddie in Manhattan Theatre Club’s riveting revival of Sam Shepard’s 1983 play. (Director Daniel Aukin’s sharp production was first mounted by the Williamstown Theatre Festival last year.)

May is living in a bleak motel (astutely designed by Dane Laffrey) “on the edge of the Mojave Desert” when long-time cowboy lover Eddie returns with a trailer of horses out back. May wants no part of him, as she knows the tiresome pattern of Eddie’s abandonment will simply repeat itself. But Eddie persists and May waves between her new resolve and old passion. Adding to her resentment against Eddie is the (offstage) return of a vengeful lady known as The Countess with whom, May is certain, Eddie carried on an affair. May is waiting to be picked up for a date by good-natured if slow-on-the-uptake Martin (Tom Pelphrey) with whom she thinks she might just be able to start afresh. Observing the sordid action from the sidelines is a mysterious Old Man (Gordon Joseph Weiss) who exists in Eddie and May’s imagination but whose actual connection to the embattled couple is eventually revealed.

Justin Townsend’s harsh lighting perfectly complements Laffrey’s soulless room.

The galvanic Arianda (very sexy in a skin-tight red dress) and simmering Rockwell are perfectly cast in these mercurial parts, and deliver the requisite passion and heated arguments as the script dictates. Rockwell wields a mean lasso, too. They are finely supported by Pelphrey and Weiss.

I hadn’t actually encountered the play since the original New York production where I saw an excellent young Bruce Willis as Eddie, but Shepard’s dialogue for this modern-day Greek tragedy still crackles. The play runs 75 minutes without intermission, and grips from first moment to last.

(MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th Street; 212-239-6200, online by visiting
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