Summary (Identities & Issues in Literature)
Set in a desolate motel room on the edge of the Mojave Desert, Fool for Love displays an alternately tender and violent love-hate relationship. Unlike the struggle between two brothers in the playwright’s True West (1980), the conflict in Fool for Love is between a woman and a man. After a long absence, Eddie has traveled 2,480 miles to reclaim May, his lover since high school. At different times during their abrupt reunion she alternately orders him to leave and begs him to stay.
Eddie boasts spurs, bucking strap, and all the other trappings of a rodeo cowboy, but his quest for glory in that arena has left him broken down and prematurely old. As if trying to hold on to his heroic Western identity, he practices roping the motel furniture. Eddie’s affair with a society woman who drives a huge, black Mercedes-Benz has subverted his role as rugged cowboy. Angered by his desertion, the woman burns his pickup truck and sets his horses loose. A decrepit man trying to salvage his dream, Eddie talks of moving to Wyoming, where he can grow vegetables. Even in this fantasy, however, his residence will be a trailer, suggesting the ephemeral fragility of his dream.
May has long been confined to a trailer and to the claustrophobic motel room (against whose walls she frequently beats her head). In Shepard’s first sustained development of a female character, she attempts to escape these symbolic traps and shape an identity...
(The entire section is 423 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The shabby old man sits in a rocking chair drinking whiskey. He exists only in the minds of Eddie and May. May sits on the edge of the bed, staring at the floor. Eddie sits at the table facing May, working resin into his bucking glove. He tosses the glove on the table and insists to May that he is not leaving. She will not look at him. He moves closer to stroke her hair. She squeezes his legs, then pushes him away. May says he smells like he was with another woman. Eddie says it was the horses.
Eddie leaves, disgusted. May screams for him not to go, grabs a pillow, and throws herself on the bed, moaning and moving around on it. Eddie returns, slamming the door. May backs herself into a corner and says she will kill the countess he was with, and then she will kill Eddie. Eddie tells her how many miles he rode to see her. He lowers his eyes and says he misses her neck. Eddied insists he has it all figured out this time, but May does not want to hear it. She says she has her own job and life now. When Eddie seems ready to accept that May wants him to leave, they come together for a long, tender kiss. Then May knees him in the groin. Eddie doubles over and drops to the floor. May goes into the bathroom and slams the door. The old man points to a picture of Barbara Mandrell and claims he is married to her in his mind, and it is important that Eddie understand the difference between being married in his mind and being married in real life.
May comes out of the bathroom carrying a sleek red dress and heels. As she changes into the sexy clothes she says numbly that she hates Eddie. Eddie says he will go. May says he better, since someone is coming over to see her. Eddie wants to know how long this was going on, and then he leaves suddenly. May yells after him and then grabs a suitcase from under the bed and starts packing. When she hears Eddie returning, she shoves it back under the bed and begins brushing her hair. Eddie returns with a shotgun and a bottle of tequila. He takes a long drink from the bottle. May asks Eddie why he always messes her up like this. Eddie says nothing will ever separate them, and May tells him to get out. Eddie goes out the door carrying the shotgun.
May throws herself against the door and weeps. The old man tells a story about when May was a baby and would not stop crying. May crawls slowly to the bed, grabs a pillow, and rocks herself. Suddenly she stops grieving, sits at the table, and takes a long drink of tequila. Eddie returns with steer ropes. They ignore each other. Eddie loops the bedposts and says he does not believe there is any guy coming over.
May says there is no point in trying to impress her because it is all over. She tries to leave, but Eddie drags her, kicking and screaming,...
(The entire section is 1128 words.)
Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Shepard begins the stage directions of Fool for Love with an admonition that could be applied to his whole artistic life: “This play is to be performed relentlessly without a break.” Stepping aside from the two-act form that worked in his previous few plays, but in no way retreating to the short sketches of his first Off-Off Broadway successes, Fool for Love is a long, single-minded battle. In dance terms, it is an “apache,” or violent combat between lovers. Frank Rick refers to this play as “a western for our time,” seeing Eddie and May as “gunslingers.”
The scene is a seedy motel room “on the edge of the Mojave Desert,” lit by neon from the window covered with Venetian blinds—a place of transition, flight, and homelessness. May, a beautiful woman in her late twenties, has fled here to escape her half brother, Eddie, whose pursuit has reduced itself to an obsessive search of the countryside for his lover and half sister.
This play is another of Shepard’s combats between two related forces. The stylized and energetic choreography of the fights is distinctive, and it brings a kind of ritualistic dancelike universality to the piece. Eddie has tracked down his fleeing half sister, May, and tries, with words, memories, and physical force, to persuade her to come back home with him. Half brother and half sister, desperately and destructively in love, confront the impossibility of their situation in this seedy, transitory space, a metaphor for the inability of the two lovers to find a place for themselves in the world.
Again, the combat motif substitutes for a truly dramatic situation—the audience is not so much concerned with whether Eddie will win May as with whether May will survive the anger and vengeance of the jealous lover who has found her and will apparently do anything to force her to return with him. A mild-mannered suitor, Martin, acts as a foil for the powerful and destructive force of Eddie, a cowboy who ropes the bedposts during the whole show. At one point, Eddie stands against the wall, digging his heels into the woodwork, a kind of silhouette not unlike the final image in La Turista—man, flattened out, two-dimensional, a presence by the strength of his outline on the wall.
The extreme down-left stage is occupied by a rocking chair and...
(The entire section is 960 words.)