Former lovers clash in ‘Fool for Love’ in San Jose

Obsession, jealousy and family secrets all figure into the tumultuous relationship in Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love,” presented by San Jose Stage Company.

It’s set in a seedy motel on the edge of the Mojave Desert where May (Allison F. Rich) is trying to start a new life. However, there’s a complication when her former lover, the dirty and dangerous Eddie (Rob August), has found her and wants to take her back to Wyoming to live in his trailer on a ranch.

May is torn, angrily ordering Eddie to leave, then beseeching him to stay when he starts to go. Fueled by tequila, their confrontations are sometimes erotic, sometimes violent.

She’s jealous of his relationship with another woman, whom she calls the Countess (not seen), while he can’t stand the idea that she has a date that night with a local man, Martin (Joshua Marx).

Observing it all from the sidelines while he does his own drinking is The Old Man (Randall King). He’s embedded in both May’s and Eddie’s imaginations as he sometimes talks to them and relates stories about them.

Their true story comes to light when Eddie relates it to Martin while May is out of the room.

Directed by Kenneth Kelleher, this production lacks some of the emotional power seen in Magic Theatre’s revival of the play earlier this year. The play had premiered in 1983 at the San Francisco company while Shepard was its playwright in residence.

The problem here is that August gives a one-dimensional, mostly domineering performance as Eddie, and both he and Rich as May shout too much in the first scene.

Otherwise, both King as the grizzled Old Man and Marx as the decent but naïve Martin serve the play well.

The set and lighting are by Michael Palumbo with costumes by Ashley Garlick and sound by Steve Shoenbeck.

Running about an hour with no intermission, “Fool for Love” moves at a good clip without losing the plot’s thread.

It will continue at San Jose Stage Company, 490 S. First St., San Jose, through Dec. 17. For tickets and information, call (408) 283-7142 or visit www.thestage.org.