by Lynn on August 8, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Sam Shepard

Directed by Frank Cox-O’Connell

Set by Lorenzo Savoini

Costumes by Shannon Lea Doyle

Lighting by Simon Rossiter

Composed and sound by Andrew Penner

Cast: Eion Bailey

Cara Gee

Stuart Hughes

Alex McCooeye

A relentless play and a production with all the noise and supposed anger but it all seems so tame.

The Story. Eddie and May are obsessed and in lust with one another. But they can’t live with or without each other. They met in high school and the attraction was instantaneous, passionate and volatile. Over the years they would cling to one another and then part in a rage.

This time Eddie has driven 2000 miles to come and find her in her motel room on the edge of the Mojave Desert. There are accusations about Eddie keeping company with someone called “The Countess.” May has also had lovers. Both Eddie and May are intensely jealous. “The Countess” also has her moments. She pulls up outside the motel and torches Eddie’s truck and trailer with his horses in it—Eddie is a rodeo rider. We hear about this from Eddie who sees this outside the window, we don’t actually see her.

On the periphery of the story is “The Old Man” who watches from the sidelines, drinks and occasionally enters the story. He knows lots of back-story about May and Eddie. And there is Martin, a simple, good natured man who is sweet on May.

The Production.  Since ‘volatile’ factors into the behaviour of May (Cara Gee) and Eddie (Eion Bailey), there is lots of yelling, jumping on the bed and fierce door slamming. Kudos to set designer Lorenzo Savoini for designing and the crew building such a sturdy set. When those doors slam with a bang no wall wobbles.

Director Frank Cox O’Connell directs with attention to the stage direction that the play is “performed relentlessly without a break.” The pace is fast, furious, angry, and pulsing with emotion. Eion Bailey as Eddie, is a rugged, unshaven and charismatic. I love the touch of having duct tape hold his cowboy boot together. (Kudos to costume designer, Shannon Lea Doyle for her work). He explodes into the motel room and prowls around it; he hovers over May almost cornering her. The animal instinct from him fills the room. As May, Cara Gee is a disappointment. She either yells without variation or poses. There is not a genuine reaction or moment in her performance. Stuart Hughes plays The Old Man as a bitter, dangerous man who spends his life regretting and drinking. He holds the secrets to the story and he lets them out sparingly. We get a sense of the heat in the play only from Hughes who plays it with his shirt totally unbuttoned. Finally Alex McCooeye plays Martin as a sweet lunk-head, good natured but dim. Still there is something imposing about him and I don’t think it’s because Mr. McCooeye is so tall. He knows how to suggest a silent danger that is effective.

For all of Frank Cox-O’Connell’s efforts to invoke the wild-west attitude of Sam Shepard’s play, the raging emotions, the aggravating heat of the Mojave Desert, I couldn’t help but think that this production was “Sam Shepard-lite.” It takes more than a soundly slammed door to suggest danger. It takes more than screaming and posing to suggest frustration and rage. Sadly it just seemed to be missing here. A Canadian thing?

Comment.  Sam Shepard writes about wild America. His characters are on the margins of polite society, something like our own George F. Walker’s characters here are on the margins. They function but have that sheen of being dangerous. And in Fool For Love Shepard goes deep into taboo country for his play. Always fascinating but so tricky to realize.

Soulpepper Presents:

Closes: Aug. 11, 2019.

Running Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes. No intermission.

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