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...
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