Critics of the original productions of Fool for Love were divided from the first. Even those that praised the play, however, qualified their kudos. For example, Jack Kroll of Newsweek wrote, ‘‘It’s a classic rattlesnake riff by Shepard, the poet laureate of America’s emotional Badlands. Fool for Love is minor Shepard, but nobody can match the sheer intensity he generates in his dramatizing of lyric obsessiveness.’’ Frank Rich of the New York Times concurred: ‘‘Fool for Love isn’t the fullest Shepard creation one ever hopes to encounter, but, at this point in this writer’s prolific 20-year career, he almost demands we see his plays as a continuum: they bleed together.’’
Even critics who disliked Fool for Love found Shepard’s production worthy of note. Robert Brustein, in the New Republic, wrote, ‘‘There is nothing very thick or complicated about either the characters or the plot, and the ending lacks resolution. But Fool for Love is not so much a text as a legend, not so much a play as a scenario for stage choreography, and under the miraculous direction of the playwright, each moment is rich with balletic nuances.’’ Brustein credited Shepard’s direction and his actors for the success of the play. Brustein ended his review by saying they ‘‘exalt what in other hands might have been a slight, unfinished script into an elegiac myth of doomed love.’’ William Kleb of Theater agreed, writing ‘‘Fool for Love comes across as a kind of psycho-sexual freefor- all, or nightmare, and Shepard’s production magnifies and intensifies the violence of its action and imagery.’’
Some critics found the expression of fury in Fool for Love to be problematic to the point of monotony. Walter Kerr of the New York Times wrote, ‘‘Physically and mechanically the [original] production knows what it is about. I wish we did. I say it because Mr. Shepard does not want us ever to be certain of what his door-slamming dance of rage is meant to signify.’’ Kerr went on to say, ‘‘The evening flirts with a fundamental boredom because of a strong sense that, under the makeup, there is nobody there.’’ His colleague Rich concurred, noting, ‘‘The knockabout physical humor sometimes becomes excessive both in the writing and in the playing; there are also, as usual, some duller riffs that invite us to drift away.’’ T. E. Kalem of Time took it a step further, writing ‘‘Even the love play is ominous. With his cowboy spurs and boots Shepard’s symbols for the untrammeled, virile male Eddie hurls himself against walls, somersaults across the floor and swings his lariat to rope in bedposts and random chairs. This is an amusing form of sexual intimidation, but it does not wholly evade silliness.’’
Kalem is one of several critics who found the impact of the incest angle less than satisfying. Kalem wrote that ‘‘in an effort to give a vivid but scarcely mind-churning work...
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