By BRUCE DENNILL
Fool For Love / Directed by Janice Honeyman / Mannie Manim Theatre, Market Theatre, Newtown, Johannesburg 8
As a playwright, Sam Shepard was not often a happy camper. This play, written in 1983, is concentrated claustrophobia, all taking place in a single motel room and involving, for the most part, two people who cannot seem to extricate themselves from each other’s lives, no matter how much they desire that outcome.
The writing confirms Shepard’s eye for detail, but also his uncompromising stance when it comes to including in his characters some of the least salubrious facets of human kind. May (Kate Liquorish) is an uptight – the play opens with her scrunched into a ball on a rumpled bed – young woman whose default reaction seems to be flinching. Eddie (Langley Kirkwood) is a visitor who presses all her buttons – loud, direct and and over-familiar.
As the story develops, the nature of the relationship between the pair is slowly revealed, thanks in part to an old man (Zane Meas) who is part narrator and part practical presence (in that the other characters occasionally look at him and directly acknowledge his presence). It’s a mechanism that works reasonably though not brilliantly well, with the information the character imparts possibly deliverable via the main protagonists.
Liquorish and Kirkwood are superb, individually and collectively. Director Janice Honeyman has clearly encouraged them to take the play’s physicality to heart and when there is conflict between May and Eddie, there is a sting in each slap; a dull thud with a panicked punch; and a shattered doorknob as a result of an assault with a chair. Liquorish is all tart intensity and uncertainty; Kirkwood full of tendon-straining frustration and pent-up fury. It’s a recipe for disaster and not surprisingly, calamity soon arrives, though it comes in chunks and chapters, with the twist, while not left right to the end, altering perspective on all that has come before.
A late arrival, Martin (Paka Zwedala) introduces a glimpse of the outside world into the stifling powder keg of the May-Eddie dynamic, underlining the unhealthiness of their situation and offering a whiff of redemption. Zwedala does a great job of communicating the mixture of confusion and shock his character experiences on being drawn into the situation he encounters.
May and Eddie’s relationship is, to look at on the stage, passionate, violent, disturbing and infinitely sad. What Shepard succeeds in conveying is that it is also, to the two of them, perhaps the only constant in their fractured lives and as such, should be accorded some value, no matter how uncomfortable doing so feels for the observer.