The newly minted McQueen & Company Theatre has launched its inaugural production, Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love, finalist for the 1984 Pulitzer Prize in Drama. With a flair for social media marketing, a borrowed theater space (Research Triangle High School in Research Triangle Park), and a $3,000 Kickstarter cache, founder-producer Diana Cameron McQueen seems to have a solid foundation. The show’s static set, small cast and 60-minute running time make Fool for Love — among other Shepard plays — a wise choice for a fledgling company.
Fool for Love — which Sam Shepard adapted for film in 1985 — observes former lovers May and Eddie as they reconvene in a seedy motel in the Mojave desert, with a bottle of tequila and grudges to bear. Matters are complicated by the appearance of May’s new suitor, Martin, and the interjections of a mysterious observer, The Old Man.
Shepard can get long-winded, so engaging blocking is key. Director Andy Hayworth keeps things moving, both in pacing and staging. But there was some dead space on Thursday — potentially opening-night hiccups.
Diana Cameron McQueen captures the dichotomy of May — apprehensive young girl and fiery, mature woman. Ryan Ladue, as the wayward Eddie, was self-aware at first, but loosened up and delivered a credible and heartfelt performance. Joshua Mardrice Henderson gives the production’s most unfaltering performance as the tightly wound Martin. Joe Christian conveys The Old Man’s self-control, but lacked the explosiveness that the play’s climax needs.
Jenni Becker’s lighting effectively evokes an Arizona sunset, but I was confused by the inconsistent use of blue and by the repurposing of a light already established as a headlight. Ami Kirk Jones’ set applies a desert palette, with accents of Southwestern-inspired turquoise.
The absence of a photograph — referenced in the dialogue — may have been purposeful, but proved confusing. I was not always able to identify Will Mikes’ sound effects, but McQueen’s costumes enhanced the characters while her props, like Jones’s set, have a vintage air.
Many of the play’s elements are almost there. A brand-new community-theater company has the right to be almost there. And this company has intelligent management and talented artists on its side. And they should be supported with our patronage. Hopefully, as McQueen & Company produces more works — which they should — these details will finesse and they will find their voice.
SECOND OPINION: June 9th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article155351739.html; June 7th Durham, NC Indy Week preview by Byron Woods: https://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/in-a-theater-scene-awash-in-actors-and-directors-mcqueen-and-company-wants-to-fill-in-the-back-end/Content?oid=6599244; and May 30th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh preview by the BWW News Desk: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/McQueen-Company-to-Stage-Sam-Shepards-FOOL-FOR-LOVE-20170530.
McQueen & Company Theatre presents FOOL FOR LOVE at 8 p.m. June 9 and 10, p.m. June 10, 3 p.m. June 11, 8 p.m. June 15-17, 3 p.m. June 18, 8 p.m. June 22-24, and 3 p.m. June 25 at Research Triangle High School, 3106 E. NC54, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709.
TICKETS: $20 ($10 students with ID and $15 seniors and active-duty military personnel), except 3 p.m. Sunday, June 11th, is a pay-what-you-can performance.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gO-wzThNbHM.
MCT NEWS PAGE: http://mcqueenandcompany.com/news/.
NOTE 1: This show is recommended for adult audiences.
NOTE 2: The 8 p.m. Saturday, June 17th, performance will be live streamed online for out-of-towners and those with limited access. For more information, click here or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE 3: There will be a post-show reception on Saturday, June 10th.
NOTE 4: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the 8 p.m. shows on Saturday, June 10th, and Saturday, June 24th.
NOTE 5: The 3 p.m. show on Sunday, June 11th, is a pay-what-you-can performance.
Fool for Love (1983 San Francisco, 1983 New York, 1984 London, and 2015 Broadway play): http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=1214 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), http://www.sam-shepard.com/foolforloveplay.html (Sam Shepard website), http://foolforlovebroadway.com/ (official website for 2015 Broadway production), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/fool-for-love-498864 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fool_for_Love_(play) (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Study Guide: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Sam Shepard (playwright and screenwriter): http://www.sam-shepard.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/sam-shepard-8584 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001731/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Shepard (Wikipedia).
Fool for Love (film): http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/23105/Fool-For-Love/ (Turner Classic Movies page), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089160/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fool_for_Love_(film) (Wikipedia).
Dustin K. Britt, a Triangle native, is an actor, director, and member of the board of directors of Arts Access, Inc., which makes the arts accessible to people with disabilities. He holds an M.A.Ed. in Special Education from East Carolina University and teaches locally. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment. You can find him on Facebook as Dustin K. Britt and via his movie blog Hold the Popcorn.