Theater review by Martin Rushmere


Fool for Love, by Sam Shepard

Alter Theater

Through February 9 at 1344 Fourth Street, San Rafael

February 11 to 16 at A.C.T. Costume Shop Theater, 1117 Market Street, San Francisco

A riveting portrayal from Marin’s experimental theater company

Powerful, elemental and earthy portrayals suck in the audience for the 70 minutes of Sam Shepard’s lovers caught in an emotional Moebius strip. Chasing each other in an endless loop, unable to find an answer to their love-hate obsession stained by a bitter family secret, they are on the edge.  Beyond that is only desolation, physically and emotionally.  Even the run down motel room of their encounter is on the edge; beyond is the Mojave Desert. What makes the performances so effective is that the cast understands exactly Shepard’s theme. The raw, brutish roughness of this underbelly of society jumps out as the two vent their passions.

Matt Lai’s Eddie is a gun-toting cowboy and rodeo rider, who has returned to Jeanette Harrison‘s May for the umpteenth time. Life’s illusions and pretense were stripped from them years before, and they know that despair awaits them. Yet they still pretend to each other and themselves that everything can be different.  In a rocking chair is the Old Man, Charles Dean, their long-dead equally rootless father, who tries to justify his actions and exists only in their minds. (Director Will Marchetti was the Old Man in the original production with Ed Harris). But the audience can never be sure if their memories are true and if so, if the Old Man’s interpretations are accurate.

Enter Danny Jones as Martin, a wonderfully innocent simpleton, right down to his every expression and action, who is befriending May and is the foil and channel for the lusts and hate.  Everything and everyone is one step away from desolation, although only Martin is unaware of it

The Moebius ending, as Eddie’s horse trailer burns, the horses escape and his truck is wrecked, reinforces the theme of eternal desolation and hope and keeps the audience focused until the last second. Will Marchetti has put together an excellent rendering of Shepard’s emotional maelstrom. Alter Theater has chosen a great storefront location for this production, in downtown San Rafael. Like Sam Shepard’s lovers, the company has no permanent home and moves to different storefronts, which makes its mission all the more exciting.  The city and Marin should count their blessings with productions like this from the county’s most daring theater company.