Sam Shepard returns to St. John’s stage

Gordon Jones
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Love prevails among family feuding in ‘Fool for Love’

Back in 1985, Sam Shepard’s “Curse of the Starving Class,” staged in the LSPU Hall, was the subject of my first theatre review.

So I have something of a soft spot for Shepard, whose “Fool for Love” (1983) is currently running in the Barbara Barrett Theatre. I believe it is the only Shepard play to be mounted in St. John’s in a quarter of a century.

As in many of his works, Shepard explores disturbed families and the intersection between love and violence. Folly and love, love and folly go together like a horse and carriage.

Two strong-willed, squabbling, longtime lovers, burly, roughneck Eddie (Eddie Penney) and eloquent, spirited May (Melissa Ralph) are siblings — half-brother and half-sister by a single father, but different mothers.

The brooding Old Man (Dave Hallett, bald and grey-bearded), their philandering father, sits imperturbable in his rocking chair, making occasional comments and interpreting the past as he sips bourbon from a paper cup.

The fourth wheel is a slightly superfluous character, Martin, coolly played by Simon Alteen, who arrives to take May out on a date and gets bemusedly entangled in the three-cornered family feuding.

It is a highly verbal and very physical play, fast and furious, fuelled by frustration and jealousy, but ending in a reconciliatory embrace. Love prevails, even in the teeth of a furiously objurgating Old Man.

Directed by Alix Reynolds, the Joint Productions presentation of Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love” was warmly received on opening night by a full-house audience in the Barbara Barrett Theatre of the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre, where the production continues until Sunday.

Show time is 8 p.m., with an additional 2 p.m. pay-what-you-can matinee on Saturday. With no intermission, the running time is a brisk 60 minutes.

Organizations: Barbara Barrett Theatre, Joint Productions

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