Fool for Love (play)

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Fool for Love
Written by Sam Shepard
Characters May
Date premiered 1983
Genre Drama
Setting Mojave Desert motel

Fool for Love is a play written by American playwright and actor Sam Shepard. The play focuses on May and Eddie, former lovers who have met again in a motel in the desert. The play premiered in 1983 at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, where Shepard was the playwright-in-residence.

Some critics consider the play part of a quintet which includes Shepard's Family Trilogy: Curse of the Starving Class (1976), Buried Child (1979), and True West (1980). The quintet concludes with Fool for Love and A Lie of the Mind (1985).[1] The play was a finalist for the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.


The "fools" in the play are battling lovers at a Mojave Desert motel. May is hiding out at said motel when an old childhood friend and old flame, Eddie, shows up. Eddie tries to convince May to come back home with him and live in the trailer on the farm they always wanted to buy. May refuses because she has started a new life and knows that if she goes back to Eddie their relationship will repeat the same destructive cycle it has before. Throughout the play the character of the Old Man — the father of both lovers — is present and talks to each of the other two characters. It is revealed that the Old Man had led a double life, abandoning each family for different parts of each child's life. The two became lovers in their high school years and when their parents finally figured out what had occurred Eddie's mother shot herself. May is afraid that Eddie has begun to emulate his father; taking to drinking and secretly seeing a woman May refers to as the Countess. The play centers around the drama of the confrontation rather than a plot with a rising and falling action. In the end the two lovers have not reconciled, the Old Man begins to lose himself to his own delusions, and a stranger is left on stage to observe it all.

Themes and analysis[edit]

Sean Murray, the artistic director of Cygnet Theatre, San Diego, spoke of True West and Fool for Love, which he presented in repertory in 2014: “There’s a definite crisis of identity going on in both these plays... And it’s as if both sets of (main characters) are doomed to be together... Both plays are about family and genealogy and being connected to your genetic brood,... And they also share the 'iconic Sam Shepard father character — that disconnected, alcoholic father who can’t communicate, who’s trying so hard to make it work.'"[2]

Nelson Pressley, reviewing a regional production in The Washington Post, referred to the play as having a "vintage Sam Shepard desperation-at-the-edge-of-the-desert look" with a "twisted cowboy romance."[3]

In reviewing the Williamstown Theatre Festival production from 2014, the reviewers noted that the play is "a masterpiece of understatement and allusion. But as with Sam Shepard plays, the words escalate into explosive action, the actors tearing at each other like mortal enemies."[4] In another analysis of the Williamstown production, Elyse Sommer notes: "Like all of Shepard's best plays, despite the evocative Mojave Desert outside the motel room in which it plays out, the landscape here is of the emotions that contain states of mind inside the self... Eddie and May have no tragic flaw or fateful quest but are just caught up in sorting through the emotional tumult of their lives in a power struggle where identity is vague and the past haunts the present."[5]

Production history[edit]

The original production, directed by Shepard, opened at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco on February 8, 1983 and starred Ed Harris and Kathy Baker. Shepard was the playwright-in-residence at the Magic Theatre. [6]

It had its Off-Broadway premiere at the Circle Repertory Theatre on May 26, 1983, with the same cast before later transferring to the Douglas Fairbanks Theatre, and closed on September 29, 1985. The production later featured Will Patton, Bruce Willis, Aidan Quinn, and Frances Fisher. Ellen Barkin was cast and rehearsed the role, but injured her arm before actually performing it. Moira Harris, wife of Gary Sinise, also performed the leading role.[7]

The play premiered in London at the National Theatre, Cottesloe Theatre on October 4, 1984, directed by Peter Gill and starring Ian Charleson and Julie Walters. The play transferred to the Lyric Theatre on February 4, 1985.[8]

The play was revived at the Apollo Theatre in London in 2006, with Martin Henderson and Juliette Lewis playing the lead roles in a production directed by Lindsay Posner. [9] The play was revived again at Riverside Studios in London in 2010, with Carl Barat and Sadie Frost in the lead roles.[10]

The play had its Massachusetts premiere at the Williamstown Theater Festival in Williamstown, Massachusetts, on July 24, 2014. It starred Sam Rockwell as Eddie and Nina Arianda as May, with direction by Daniel Aukin.[11] Arianda and Rockwell are reprising their roles in the play's Broadway debut at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre in a Manhattan Theater Club production, with previews beginning on September 15, 2015 and official opening scheduled for October 8, 2015, with direction by Daniel Aukin.[12]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Fool for Love was a finalist for the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.[13]

The play won the 1984 Obie Awards for: Direction (Sam Shepard), Best New American Play, and Performance: Ed Harris, Kathy Baker and Will Patton.[7]

Ian Charleson was nominated for the 1984 Olivier Award, Actor of the Year in a New Play; Julie Walters was nominated for the 1984 Olivier Award, Actress of the Year in a New Play.[14]

Film adaptation[edit]

In the 1985 film version, Shepard himself took over the lead, with Kim Basinger as his female lead. The film was directed by Robert Altman.


  1. ^ Roudané, Matthew (2002). The Cambridge Companion to Sam Shepard. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9780521777667
  2. ^ Hebert, James. "A double dose of Shepard's wild West" San Diego Union Tribune, September 30, 2014
  3. ^ Pressley, Nelson. "‘Fool for Love’ at Round House, taking the edge off Shepard" The Washington Post, September 10, 2014
  4. ^ Burns, Gail M. and Murray, Larry. "Brilliant production of Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love” at Williamstown Theatre Festival", July 27, 2014
  5. ^ Sommer, Elyse. "A CurtainUp Berkshire Feature. Fool For Love, An Overview" CurtainUp, July 23, 2014
  6. ^ "Magic Theatre History", accessed September 20, 2015
  7. ^ a b "'Fool for Love' Off-Broadway", accessed September 17, 2015
  8. ^ "'Fool for Love' 1984-85, Peter Gill Site", accessed September 20, 2015
  9. ^ Billington, Michael. "'Fool for Love', Apollo" The Guardian, 16 June 2006
  10. ^ Spencer, Charles. "'Fool for Love' at the Riverside Studios, review" The Telegraph, 29 January 2010
  11. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Nina Arianda and Sam Rockwell Heat Up Williamstown's 'Fool for Love', Opening Tonight" Playbill, July 24, 2014
  12. ^ Gans, Andrew. "'Fool for Love', Starring Nina Arianda and Sam Rockwell, Steams Up Broadway Tonight" Playbill, September 15, 2015
  13. ^ "Pulitzer prize, Drama", accessed September 19, 2015
  14. ^ "Olivier Winners 1984", accessed September 17, 2015

External links[edit]