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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Fool for Love: a powerful start to the UTCs fall season

Published: October 28, 2005
Section: Arts, Etc.

Last weekend, the Undergraduate Theater Collectives fall season got underway with the Brandeis Players production of Sam Shepards Fool for Love, directed by David Klasko.

While waiting for the show to begin, the curtains were open and the audience had full view of the bleak set (designed by Joshua Louis Simon): Torn insulation bedecking shoddy walls, an equally decrepit bathroom visible through a door stage left, a late evening purple glow outside the window, and minimal furniture. A harsh setting for a harsh play.

The action of the play is somewhat straightforward. Eddie (Alex Toplansky 07) has tracked down May (Sarah Jacobs 09) in this run-down motel room in the Mojave Desert. May is tired of Eddies game of forcing his way into her life, abandoning her, and then returning to her again, which he has been doing for around twenty years;

however, she also cant help being attracted to him. But she also has a new boyfriend, the awkward but sweet Martin (Alex Martynov 08), and Eddie came to her straight from an affair with a rich woman who May bitterly dubs The Countess. The seeming simplicity of all this is disrupted by the Old Man (Tom Heller 07) in his own special light in one corner of the stage, drinking and peacefully observing the action, then occasionally piping in with a story of his own, and by the later revelation that he is the father of both Eddie and May;

they are half-siblings.

The four-person cast that Klasko assembled for this play was full of standout performances. Toplansky, who has a beautiful deep voice, did a particularly good job with his facial expressions and vocal inflections, capably filling the role of Eddie. Jacobs was very natural in the role of May. Her monologue finishing Eddies story about their true relationship was completely mesmerizing. Heller also gave a terrific performance as the Old Man. His accent and physical presence as he sat in his chair in the corner were both impressive. He lent wonderful comic timing to the plays few funny lines, which in turn made it more powerful when his character turned serious. Martynov was solid in the role of Martin, effectively bringing his characters awkward and nave energy to the stage.

However, what really made the show special was the casts chemistry. The exchanges between Toplansky and Jacobs were very natural, and it was entirely believable that they had a twenty-year history in which they may have done this many times. Martynovs Martin and Toplanskys Eddie were perfect foils for each other, and their scene together was fun to watch. When Hellers Old Man left his chair and his corner and joined the scene, the interactions on the stage took on a chilling timbre. Toplansky coldly stating the details of his mothers suicide, staring straight out into the audience as Heller yelled in his ear that he must defend him, made for a powerful, tense moment, as did Toplansky and Jacobs slowly walking across the stage towards each other while Heller yelled that they must stay apart and must never be together.

Fool for Love also featured rare skill in its technical design. Under the guidance of artistic director Nathan Paoletta, Klaskos design team created a powerful atmosphere to compliment the casts performance. Special recognition is due to lighting designer Erica Weston;

the purple evening sky in the background, the green lighting on the Old Man separating him from the action, and the effect simulating the light streaming in from Eddies burning truck were all well done, and the headlights of cars pulling into the motels parking lot, blazing right out onto the audience and quickly swinging away, were a tremendous touch that heightened the tension on stage. The costumes, designed by Daniel Dobies, were also striking in how they represented the characters wearing them: The Old Man looked like a careless slob in a T-shirt and jeans, Eddie looked like a rough redneck in his flannel, and Martins awkward tendencies were embodied in the dorky sweater-vest on his chest.

After Eddie finally leaves the motel room with his truck in flames, May follows shortly thereafter with a packed suitcase, and the audience is left with a striking final tableau that does not provide any easy answers. The Old Man sits in his chair, lustily reciting his initial semi-comic monologue about the girl of his dreams, while Martin stares out the window at the burning wreckage of Eddies car and light jazz plays in the background;

a stunning closing image, which is more than fitting for such a powerful production. The bar has been set high for the remainder of the UTC season.

For those hungering for more theatre, this weekend Charles Mees Big Love wraps up its run in Spingolds Laurie Theater and Brandeis Ensemble Theater will be performing The Stendhal Syndrome by Terrence McNally in the Shapiro Theater.