While watching Sam Rockwell and Nina Arianda go at it as Eddie and May in Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, all I could think of is so this is what twin flames are like. Brutal, sexually charged, intense and doomed. This production directed by Daniel Aukin is a non stop punch at how souls become dysfunctional through no fault of their own. Drawn like moths to a flame, Eddie and May are stuck in a circular hell that as long as they live, will play out the same scenario until one dies.
This time we are at a cheep motel room at the edge of the Mojave Desert. Eddie has sought out May, because in truth they can not live without each other or with each other. Eddie has left her so many times that May has been driven crazy and wants off this ride of no escape. She is like a caged animal ready for flight, but has moments of weekness that draw her to this swaggering cowboy. Eddie, is a ladies man who knows this relationship is wrong, but can not entirely let go. He is like his father before him and the consequences of their relationship have lead to dire circumstances. When Martin (Tom Pelphrey) shows up to take May to the movies Eddie begins the story of who they really are to each other as May finishes the tragic tale. Like a tango these two weave an intricate dance, as The Old Man (Gordon Joseph Weiss), tries to interject. In the end we pity and cry for these two tortured souls.
Rockwell is a bowl legged male, roping his way into our hearts. Arianda is iridescent and is so full of emotional turmoil you can not take your eyes off her. Together they are electric and this play for 75 minutes burn as bright as the lights on Broadway.
Daniel Aukin’s direction could not be more perfect. Dane Laffrey’s set is made in a way that we feel the cramped space in which entrapment is as vicious as the desert beyond.
Could this play be up for Best Play? Though written in 1983, it has never been on Broadway until now, though it is a staple of American theatre. I do expect nods for Arianda, Rockwell and Aukin as this is as good as theatre gets. It is riveting. Eddie’s first words: “I’m not leaving,” will be said again years from now as the game begins a new.
Fool for Love: Manhattan Theatre Club at Samuel J. Friedman Theater, 251 West 47th St. through Dec. 6th