A double feature of one-act plays by prolific playwright Sam Shepard was something new and enjoyable.
A tragic love story and a post-apocalyptic Christmas have one thing in common: the late playwright Sam Shepard. The University of Tulsa Theatre Department brought “Fool for Love” and “Action” to Kendall’s Chapman Theatre this past weekend.
This double feature proved to be a strong showcase of TU’s quality productions. Samantha Potrykus directed “Fool for Love” as the opening feature. This Shepard one-act focuses on two estranged lovers who meet up at a motel. May (Alena Cook), runs away from Eddie (Tyler McCoy), until he finds her yet again. The Old Man (Michael Flake), drinks whiskey from his rocking chair off the set and away from the action. Martin (Mitchell Shorey), shows up to pick May up for a date. May and Eddie fill Martin in on the backstory between them, revealing a sad story of repeating cycles.
The number of reveals, reversals and surprises kept this one worth watching. The tragic love story may not be for everyone, but as the characters reveal parts of their history to the audience, most theatre fans would be drawn in.
Cook brought May to life with a standout performance. McCoy did a solid job as Eddie. Flake and Shorey put meaning into their smaller roles. I found the fight scenes the most impressive of the ordeal. The coordination needed for the intricate scuffles made for a delightful way to shake up the melodrama.
The second production, “Action,” marks the difference between good and enjoyable. As a piece of literature, the piece was excellent. Jacob Patterson directed the production with expertise, and the work shined as a whole. However, it has a very specific niche in the way of being enjoyable. It has no true plot, little character development and confusing dialogue.
The play takes place in a post-apocalyptic world around holiday season, although the hints toward the armageddon portion are rather subtle. As the four characters attempt to cope with the reality of being cooped up for long periods of time, they act stranger with each passing minute. The depth with which Shepard portrayed the human psyche tortured by boredom intrigued me. However, the play did not play out in classic narrative structure with characters who want something and overcome obstacles to get it. It felt much like watching a science experiment but with good acting. In that way, I loved it.
The actors performed their roles well. Flake returned in the second production as Shooter, Aedan James played Jeep, Emily Peterson played Lupe and Hanna Benson played Liza. I found Emily Peterson to fit her role particularly well by her mannerisms and voice inflections. She sounded like a suburban mom around holiday time, which I assume was her character.
Overall, the tribute to Sam Shepard was a positive experience. I enjoyed the first play, and the second one got me thinking. For me, the productions leaned more on the artistic side than the entertainment side. Hats off again to TU theatre. I hope to see more next year.