Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love” takes place in a run-down, isolated motel room in the Mojave Desert, so it’s startling to walk into the Judy Bayley and see the Nevada Conservatory’s fancy, big-scaled set. Thomas Bumblauskas has designed a room that looks simple but not run-down (and too prettily lit by Marihan Mehelba), is surrounded by strands of ladder rope and is topped by a scaffold. The look is so busy and artsy that you don’t have a clue what the psychological environment of the play is all about.
When we first see a woman (May) sitting on a bed, her head hanging low, we have no idea what she’s thinking. Actress Lauren Mack seems to have been posed. When she suddenly grabs the leg of the man standing next to her (Eddie, played by Alan Dronek), there’s no desperation in that grab, no hint why she’s so needy.
During the next hour and fifteen minutes, the simple woman and the broken-down cowboy argue about whether Eddie should leave or stay or leave or stay, and it really gets on your nerves. Shepard’s script is a marvel, but director Michael Lugering and his inappropriately well-scrubbed cast never communicate the passion driving the play’s action.
Then there’s that old man cowboy. Michael Tylo is hoisted atop a platform at the beginning of the production by two stagehands (not a site that has anything to do with the script), and it takes a while before we understand his mysterious relationship to the couple. Trouble is, the middle-aged Tylo isn’t an old man, and he can’t act one. He fakes his age and ruggedness by frequently stroking his beard and using a trembling, theatrical voice that sounds more like an articulate Juilliard graduate than a whiskey-driven, age-ragged, scraggly man-of-the-land. Tylo’s impersonation suffocates the issues of regret and choice that are at the heart of the play.
The two lead actors, first-year Master of Fine Arts students, are talented. They just don’t seem to have the life experiences yet that would enable them to bring these roles to life. And there’s no evidence Lugering made much of an effort to help them.
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at vegastheaterchat @aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.REVIEW
What: “Fool For Love”
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday;
2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Judy Bayley Theatre, University of Nevada, Las Vegas,
4505 S. Maryland Parkway
Tickets: $20-$30 (895-2787)