McQueen & Company Theatre might be a new entity in the Triangle theater scene, but their initial show is quite obviously a collaboration of seasoned veterans. Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love calls for raw, gritty characters who interact in a seedy, run-down motel, and this production delivers on both — in spades! Director Andy Hayworth has assembled a first-rate cast and crew, and he has made some strong choices that make this production particularly special.
We were immediately impressed by the verisimilitude of Ami Kirk-Jones’ set. It faithfully mirrors the interior of a cheap, poorly maintained motel room. The stains on the wall, the cracked plaster, and the ill-fitted, separating seams of sheetrock paneling — it’s all there. The look and the feel were so genuine that we could almost smell the dank mustiness and the stale cigarette smoke that typically assaults the nostrils upon entering such a room. As the dialogue states: this is not a motel that is frequented by people who would drive a long, black Mercedes.
A top-of-the show twang of a bit of country music sets the mood, and the show begins. Fool for Love, which is chockful of adult language and situations, is about a pair of on-again, off-again lovers who have reunited in this low-rent rendezvous. It is a study of this complicated relationship. One will claim: “I don’t love you, I don’t want you, I don’t need you” while intermittently exhibiting behavior that belies those feelings.
Diana Cameron McQueen, as May, delivers a character who is simultaneously loving-and-spiteful, insecure-and-haughtily-confident, and needy-and-militantly-independent. May’s internal tug-of-war mirrors her external conflict with Eddie. McQueen imbues the character with poignant body language as well as vocal expression as the differing, conflicting emotions emerge.
Ryan Ladue plays Eddie, May’s once-and-future(?) lover. Eddie is a brash and arrogant drifter/stuntman/rodeo performer. Simply stated, Ladue nails this part. Every bit as bifurcated as May, Eddie simultaneously stirs up our outrage and a degree of pity. The role of Eddie requires a certain amount of swagger, and Ladue does not disappoint. However, when Eddie’s vulnerability surfaces, it comes as no surprise.
Joshua Mardrice Henderson supplies the third part to this puzzle; he plays Martin, the man that May is expecting to join her for the evening. Suffice it to say: Martin’s evening does not turn out at all as he had expected! Henderson brings his character onstage “with a bang,” and progresses through a series of reactions as the character metaphorically fields curveball-after-curveball.
But these are not the first characters that we meet. Before the lights go down, an Old Man (Joe Christian) enters and takes a seat stage-left, seemingly outside the reality of the motel room. Then the lights go down, and “the show” begins.
Director Andy Hayworth’s choices for focus and blocking, along with the relentless pacing (augmented by the lighting supplied by designer Jenni Mann Becker) made us totally forget that the Old Man was there — repeatedly — until the instances in which the character emerged (in his own reality) to comment on and add to the story that was unfolding in the motel room and the various, somewhat conflicting backstories that were being told.
The play contains a fifth character — “The Countess” — who never enters the room but has quite an effect on the story’s outcome.
In addition to the preshow and post-show music, sound designer Will Mikes adds to the ambience with background sounds appropriate to the setting.
Sam Shepard’s play not only delivers a story, but is every bit a commentary on the art of storytelling. Different details are supplied by different characters. And an early line — “Tell him I’m your cousin” — calls into question the veracity of each of these details. Likewise, there is Eddie’s claim that he has detoured 2,480 miles out-of-his-way to visit May — that is the average distance between the East and West Coast of the continental United States.
What, exactly, is Sam Shepard trying to say here? AND: Is the word “fool” in the title intended to be a noun or a verb? (FYI: Shows like this, with raw human interactions and after-the-fact eggheaded questions are very much Kurt’s cup of tea!)
From the Department of Picky-Picky: (1) While we realize that fight choreography is difficult (especially when the fight includes dialogue), we feel they need to tighten up the physicality of the upstage sequence when May is trying to get to the door and Eddie is trying to stop her. (2) There is a segment in which May is doing most of the talking, and she has been blocked to cross downstage of the table at which Martin and Eddie are seated. The result: May’s back was to the audience way too long and way too frequently. (3) (This one is very picky, but …) McQueen seemed a somewhat uncomfortable when May changed clothes onstage, thereby sending out a mixed signal. (4) The outside-the-window lighting effects could be improved a bit.
The show runs 60 minutes without an intermission at Research Triangle High School theater in Research Triangle Park. It plays through June 25th — 8 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays.
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. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the June 9th Triangle Review review by Dustin K. Britt, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2017/06/mcqueen-companys-inaugural-production-sam-shepards-fool-for-love-shows-promise/.)
McQueen & Company Theatre presents FOOL FOR LOVE at 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).
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: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the 8 p.m. Saturday, June 24th, show.
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).
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.