"There isn't a movie in this town that can top the story I'm gonna tell."
So boasts the Tequila-swilling rodeo stuntman Eddie (Brent Lindsay), deftly derailing the intended movie date of his ex-lover May (Amy Pinto) and her gently baffled would-be boyfriend, Martin (Keith Baker), in Sam Shepard's disturbing, off-kilter 1984 drama Fool for Love.
Running through June 3 at Main Stage West in Sebastopol and immediately moving to Santa Rosa's Imaginists Theatre Collective for two more weeks, the award-winning play is typical Shepard, in that it carries his own particular mythical and mystical view of the American West. It also comes with its own set of challenges to anyone brave enough to mount the show.
Instead of the dozens and dozens of toasters required for his fraternal opus True West, or the headless deer carcass demanded by A Lie of the Mind, Shepard merely calls upon the producers of Fool for Love to put microphones in the walls of the motel room set, amplifying the sound of every angry door slam, every violent bash and crash of actors into the ever-reverberating walls.
Kudos to director Beth Craven, set designer David Lear and sound designer Doug Faxon for pulling it all off, along with one or two other tricky bits of Shepardian stagecraft (exploding horse trailer, anyone?).
The "story" at the heart of the play, the one Eddy begins to tell about halfway through the relentless 85-minute one act, may not even be true, but it's a whopper. Prompted and provoked by the ghostly, rocking-chair-bound old man (John Craven), Eddy begins to describe the rocky roots of his on-again, off-again romance with May, who eventually picks up the story, adding a few details that even the dead guy in the rocking chair didn't know.
One doesn't really "enjoy" a play like Fool for Love so much as one surrenders, eventually, to its eerie, mesmerizing intensity. Shepard's tale of damaged lovers, sons, daughters and parents veers in and out of some truly outrageous, occasionally uncomfortable material. And yet, somehow, the play is frequently funny, a testament to the superb acting of its entire cast. Though defying typical theatrical plot structures, Fool for Love works as a kind of extreme acting exercise, a tightrope act of commitment and dramatic honesty, demanding a great deal from its audience—but even more from its performers.
'Fool for Love' runs though June 3 at Main Stage West (104 N. Main St., Sebastopol; 707.823.0177), then moves to the Imaginists to run June 6–17. (461 Sebastopol Ave., Santa Rosa; 707.528.7554). Show times vary. $16–$25. See www.mainstagewest.com or www.theimaginists.org for more.