WASHINGTON’S KEEGAN Theatre Company makes its annual visit to the Town Hall Theatre the week after next with a new production of Sam Shepard’s powerful drama, Fool For Love.
A critical and popular success, this masterfully constructed work brings searing intensity and rare theatrical excitement to its probing, yet sharply humorous, study of love, hate, and the dying myths of the American West.
In a stark, low-rent, motel room on the edge of the Mojave Desert, Eddie and May love and hate their way through life. Unable to hold on or let go of each other, they battle to keep from drowning together.
This Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright’s masterpiece shows the heights and depths that love can take us to, ultimately making fools of us all.
Shepard wrote Fool For Love shortly after breaking up with his wife O-Lan Jones in order to be with his current partner Jessica Lange. In a letter to his friend and collaborator, Joe Chaikin, Shepard described the play as “the outcome of all this tumultuous feeling I’ve been going through this past year…it’s a very emotional play and in some ways embarrassing for me to witness but somehow necessary at the same time”.
Few writers manage to elevate higher than the sensationalism of confessional drama, but Shepard’s allegory for his own loss and love rises above and provides us with an intensely powerful personal drama that draws us in with its manic depiction of ill-fated love.
This is the Keegans’ second time to engage with the play - the company previously performed it 10 years ago in what was its second visit to Ireland. This year’s revival sees Keegan comes near the end of what has been the company’s most successful year. It has acquired its own theatre space in the heart of Washington and secured several Helen Hayes Awards for its acclaimed production of the musical Rent.
Fool For Love sees Keegan’s Mark Rhea reprise the role of star-crossed lover Eddie from the 2000 staging of the play and, speaking ahead of the play’s visit to Galway this month, he reflected on the experience of revisiting the role 10 years after he first essayed it.
“Much as I enjoyed doing it the first time, there’s something about doing it now that feels more right to me,” Rhea declares. “Part of it is that Eddie is this broken down cowboy and while I amn’t broken down as such, I think that little bit of extra age gives you more feel for the character and how he has gone on in this capacity with this relationship.
“It makes it even more traumatic to me in a lot of ways that the situation has gone on in their minds for so long, into their early forties. So there’s that feeling I get with it now that I didn’t have before.”
While Rhea reprises the role of Eddie from the original Keegan production, the remaining personnel in this year’s staging are new. Larissa Gallagher plays May; Kevin Adams takes on the ghostly presence of the Old Man; KJ Thorarinsson plays May’s date, Martin; and Colin Smith serves as director.
“This is Larissa’s first time touring with us to Ireland,” says Rhea. “She’s very tough, strongwilled with internal strength – she’s a really good fit for the role of May. Kevin Adams is playing the Old Man, he’s been with us a few years, he’s one of my favourite actors in DC. He’s a very grounded, solid actor.
“For KJ Thorarinsson, this his third year on tour with us. He’s a talented actor. Director Colin Smith is a company member of Keegan, he and I got talking about the show and he’s a huge Shepard fan and as he talked to me about what he thought about the play I said ‘Man you’re a perfect fit for this’.
“We’ve been trying to keep it grounded and real and honest and let the acting take over. Colin’s a gutsy kind of director. He’s ‘Get in there and find the guts of these people’. I think he’s done a really great job of that with this cast especially with me and Larissa for Eddie and May.”
The play has already opened in Cork, where it was hailed as “powerful, compelling, and twisted, this love story is truly gripping” by The Evening Echo. Rhea is suitably passionate about the production’s merits.
“I feel very strongly about the work,” he declares. “It’s a very typical Keegan type show, it’s very raw and you need that with this show. It’s very real I think, very honest. I think by the end of it people will come out feeling hopefully healed in some way by watching what happens.
“Eddie and May are trying to break through that memory and mindset of the Old Man being there and heal themselves. I really like that feeling at the end with the two main characters, that healing can begin, and I don’t think we went that far with it last time.”
Fool For Love runs at the Town Hall for three nights only from Monday September 20 to Wednesday 22 at 8pm. Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777.