With its current production of Fool for Love, Bay Theatre Company begins its fourth season of offering solid, thought-provoking drama interpreted by strong actors who explore passion and despair.
Playwright Sam Shepard's Fool for Love premiered off Broadway in 1983, earning an Obie Award for Ed Harris, the original Eddie. Still cutting-edge, this drama affords producing artistic director Lucinda Merry-Browne and co-director Janet Luby a thoughtful work that has not received its deserved exposure, and it is sure to engage its audience.
In an uninterrupted 90 minutes, Fool for Love tells the wrenching story of May and her former lover, rodeo rider/drifter Eddie, who arrives at her rundown motel room as she waits for her date, Martin, to take her to the movies. The Eddie-May relationship is revealed gradually, exposing its incestuous elements.
In last Friday's opening-night production at the 90-seat West Garrett Place Playhouse, the Bay Theatre folks paid their usual scrupulous attention to detail - even before the action began. The sound of the classic Patsy Cline song "Crazy" set the mood, drawing the audience into the motel room where a lone male figure sits motionless in a rocking chair in a dimly lit corner.
In her Bay Theatre debut, Catholic University graduate and Washington resident Leslie Sarah Cohen raises the reality level several painful notches as the abused May. With her head in her hands, and seeming in a near-catatonic state, Cohen conveys a raw passion that seems to sigh through her entire body. Cohen conveys May's lust and emotional trauma as she confronts Eddie. Cohen's final, resigned monologue is a poignant moment of quiet power.
The couple's passion is so heated and intense that it makes the motel room seem claustrophobic, a fact that becomes more apparent through the physicality and wide sweep of Ben Russo's Eddie. Making his Bay debut, writer/director Russo is entirely convincing as Eddie, who has traveled 3,000 miles to rekindle his relationship with May.
Russo, a Frostburg State graduate, conveys an intense energy and athleticism expressed in his lassoing everything except his desire for May. Russo is at once taunting, confused, animalistic and almost violently macho. He turns nasty when May's new suitor, Martin, a bumpkin and pivotal figure, arrives.
David Johnson, a Fairfax, Va., resident and member of Actors Equity, is also making his Bay debut. As Martin, he arrives at the motel to take May to the movies and soon becomes engrossed in their story - told first by Eddie and then by May. Johnson's subtle performance is in sharp contrast to Russo's Eddie, allowing the bewildered Martin's naive quality to take on humorous aspects.
As the enigmatic Old Man, Annapolis resident Richard Foster delivers a compelling portrayal of a self-indulgent man who cares little for the crippling results his actions might have.
Highly recommended for the serious theater aficionado, Fool for Love might not appeal to the casual theater-goer who might be offended by the realistic depiction of steamy passion.
Weekend performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays, with some Thursday evening performances, continue through Nov. 12. Tickets are $22 for general admission, $17 for students and seniors with group discounts available. Reservations: 410-268-1333 or email@example.com.