>fool for love by glass theatre

>reviewed by jeremy samuel

>date:18 jan 2002
>time: 8pm
>venue: the drama centre
>rating: ***1/2

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


FOOL FOR LOVE is set, in the original, in a motel room on the edge of the Mojave Desert, but really it could be anywhere. The psychodrama playing within the four walls takes place more in a mental than a physical space, like Beckett's landmark-free landscapes, with the desert stretching before it like a reminder of the emptiness and sterility of life.

The universality of the play is the reason Glass Theatre's treatment of it works. For all that they have translated it into Chinese and infused it with oriental influences, and for all that this goes against the Midwestern rodeo sensibility of Sam Shepard (ruggedly American playwright-actor, currently to be seen bombing Mogadishu in 'Black Hawk Down'), the production holds together because actors and director look beyond the superficial to commit to its emotional truth. It helps that the translation - done, impressively, by the Vice President of the Beijing People's Arts Theatre - is spot on.

>>'The production holds together because actors and director look beyond the superficial to commit to its emotional truth'

The audience files in to an opening tableau - three figures, an old man and a couple, are isolated in separate pools of light. Throughout the action the characters will never truly touch one another, however much they appear to converse. May, the woman, lives alone in the motel, and Eddie has come after her to resuscitate their relationship - but their interaction is mostly in the form of circular, destructive arguments, covering territory clearly over-familiar to them.

The shocking revelation (there's always a shocking revelation) turns out to rest with the old man, who is Eddie and May's father. They are in fact half-siblings, having started the affair before becoming aware of their relationship. May and Eddie throw this fact at each other, never completely coming to terms with it. Meanwhile their father delivers long, self-deluding monologues about how happy their respective childhoods were. They ignore him, largely because he isn't physically in the motel room with them; one suspects Shepard stuck him onstage largely to raise the intensity of the emotions already swirling about.

Gerald Yong and Ringal Wong are fine as Eddie and May, the sister shrill and painfully unhappy; the brother hiding his insecurity behind a macho persona. They are both too young for the roles they play, however, and do not quite capture the claustrophobia of their relationship, nor the sense of wasted life. The true centre of the show is the old man, played by Benson Ang. His silent presence on stage lends emotional ballast to the surface skirmishes going on around him, and his speeches are resonant with a kind of paternal wistfulness, full of tenderness for his children whose lives he has so comprehensively wrecked. Ang's delivery is masterful, both vulnerable and compulsive.

William Wu directs with a steady hand, economically creating his atmosphere with erhu music and an excellent lighting design by Xu Bing. He builds towards the climax of the play efficiently - although one could wish for more variation in pitch and pace - in which Eddie describes his first, childhood meeting with May and her mother, his father's mistress. At this point a woman and child appear at the back of the stage. This threatens to turn over-literal, but they remain beyond the back flat, distant, present for only a moment with twilight behind them before vanishing, like a fragment of a happy memory - a touch of magic, one of several in this production.