A Tale of a Relationship That is Savage Yet Sensual
Two kinds of romance are portrayed on the silver screen and the stage. There is the sugary-sweet, pink-hued kind of romance where the air is filled with melodious, foot-tapping music. And then there is the deep, dark, brooding kind of romance where the air is charged with unvarnished, stripped-down emotions. Daniel Aukin’s Broadway adaptation of Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love depicts the latter kind of love. It is savage yet sensual.
The sugary-sweet, breezy romances have happy endings. You cannot miss the aching, underlying theme of separation in Fool for Love even when the lovers are kissing passionately. The suspense almost leaves you breathless, but the story is not a tear-jerker about star-crossed lovers. Fool for Love is a story about two cosmically entwined lovers, May and Eddie, who reunite only to hurtle towards another separation that seems inevitable and imminent.
The drama unfolds in a room in a motel somewhere in the vast wilderness of the Mojave Desert. The feeling of nothingness is palpable in the way the set is arranged; the motel room seems to exist in a time-warped bubble of its own. May and Eddie too are suspended in their own private world and for a while it seems as if their story is unique. But you are compelled to change your mind as the story progresses. You realize that May and Eddie’s story is universal because the themes of love and separation are inextricably linked to one another.
Nina Arianda and Sam Rockwell play May and Eddie respectively. They live their parts. They gaze at one another with love and longing, yet the tension between them is gut-wrenching. They come together in a loving embrace, and then, Eddie picks up May hurls her across the room. They kiss each other passionately, and then May kicks Eddie in the groin. They share their stories with each other—to explain who they are and how they came to be where they are now—but right afterwards, each accuses the other of lying.
May and Eddie play out a romance that is at once tender and bitter. But never for a moment does their love exude an aura of calmness or lets you relax. You long for the tender touch of love when Eddie gently strokes May’s hair. Then you doubt if you can handle the hurt that love brings when you see Eddie sitting slumped in a chair, dejection evident in his posture, or when May tears up the walls, anguish ringing painfully in her screams. The passion in May and Eddie’s relationship is unmistakable, but the same passion smothers them at times.
Aukin’s Fool for Love maintains its tautness throughout the duration of the play because of the chemistry the leads share. The lighting and the thumping soundscape contribute in equal measures. So do the dialogs.
When May and Eddie share their stories in a heart-to-heart talk, the prose is exquisite and evocative. Immediately afterwards, they hurl bitter and hurtful words at one another when they call each other liars.
The conflict in their relationship comes forth when Eddie describes the future they have imagined together as, “It’s no fantasy,” and May replies, “It’s all a fantasy.” By this time, we are so drawn into their drama that we agree with both of them.
Sam Shepard’s work does not aim to take the sheen away from romance or turn us into cynics. But he also stops short of making us look at romantic love through rose-tinted glasses. Aukin remains true to the original work as he too portrays romantic love as a journey through the entire spectrum of emotions and passions, from longing to loathing. He creates a gripping drama that exposes raw emotions.
Meanwhile, we can’t help but wonder if it is a coincidence that the play is set away from the distractions of modern life? Could it be that the creator wanted us to realize that the truth and intensity of emotions can only be expressed and felt when we remove ourselves from a world of make-believe appearances?