Sam Shepard began writing plays in the 1960’s and had many of them produced in New York before he reached the age of thirty. Fool for Love shares the one-act structure and relentless pace of earlier plays such as or Operation Sidewinder (1970) or Cowboy Mouth (1971), but it was written after Shepard’s longer “family plays,” such as Curse of the Starving Class (1976) and Buried Child (1978), which won the Pulitzer Prize in drama 1979. It combines the wild urgency of some earlier plays with more complex character development. The most significant innovation in Fool for Love is that many critics consider it the first Shepard play in which a woman’s character, May, is as fully and interestingly drawn as a man’s.
The term “realistic,” however, is not an accurate way to describe Shepard’s rendering of May, or any other of his characters, if by “realistic” one means objectively consistent. May’s character is not “absurd” in the traditional sense of that term, since the motivation for her actions is uncovered in the course of the play. Shepard’s style of drama is hard to define according to existing, traditional formulas. A director who worked with Shepard makes an interesting case for labeling Shepard’s work “hyperrealism.” What makes Shepard’s characters “hyperreal” is their awareness of what others consider “realistic” at the same time they have abandoned attempts to project an objective presentation of themselves. The audience meets all of them at a place well beyond the breakdown of objective pretense as a façade. All that the characters say and do...
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