Oct. 8 2014 12:35 PM

A review of Cygnet Theatre's production of Sam Shepard drama tops our coverage of local plays

From left: Antonio TJ Johnson, Francis Gercke and Carla Harting
Photo by Ken Jacques

Those slamming doors you just heard are echoing from the direction of Old Town, where Cygnet Theatre is staging Sam Shepard's 75 minutes of raw tension known as Fool for Love. If rodeo rowdy Eddie (Francis Gercke) isn't slamming behind him the front door of a claustrophobic motel room in the Mojave Desert, then his volatile lover, May (Carla Harting), is slamming the motel bedroom door behind her. Eddie and May are a desperately codependent pair, and as the story unfolds, it will turn out that's the least of their issues.

Cygnet Artistic Director Sean Murray is calling the presentation in rotating repertory of two of Shepard's mythological plays, Fool for Love and True West, the theater's "Shep Rep." (True West will be reviewed next week.) Like another regional theater with a jones for Shepard (Carlsbad's New Village Arts has in recent seasons staged Simpatico and Buried Child), Cygnet is embracing the playwright's dark, simmering leitmotifs, with their frayed families and frequent shots of booze and violence. Fool for Love is archetypical. While Eddie and May do their metaphorical dance of selfdestruction, the spectral presence of an old man (Antonio TJ Johnson) looms in a rocking chair in the corner. The Old Man is their old man, and each can hear him independent of the other when he speaks. Trouble is, they have two different mothers, meaning that lovers Eddie and May are half-siblings. Each tells the truth, as he or she sees it, to Martin (Manny Fernandes), an innocent good guy who arrives to pick up May for a night at the movies. Fool for Love's unseen antagonist is The Countess, whom Eddie evidently has been diddling and who decides to exact revenge in the parking lot— and you thought slamming doors was loud.

Gercke and Harting are worthy adversaries, alternately pathetic and explosive. Gercke's finest moment may be how believably he brings off Eddie's having been kneed in the groin by May—in the middle of a kiss. Talk about pain in your Mojave Desert.

Murray's direction ramps up the mystery and the anxiety, and Fool for Love's silences are so thoughtfully timed that each eruption, slamming door or otherwise, jolts you in the shoulders.

Fool for Love runs through Nov. 2 at the Old Town Theatre. $29-$59. cygnettheatre.com

Write to davidc@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com.


Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde: This is the 2009 adaptation by Jeffrey Hatcher of the classic story of the good and evil that resides in us all. Opens Oct. 10 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org

North Park Playwright Festival: This series of new, very short plays started last week, but we didn't know about it. It runs for four weeks, and its second weekend goes from Oct. 10 through 12 at the North Park Vaudeville and Candy Shoppe. northparkvaudeville.com

The Other Place: A staged reading of a play about a successful neuroscientist whose own brain is malfunctioning. Presented by San Diego Actors Theatre, it happens at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 13, in the J Crivello Theatre at Francis Parker School in Linda Vista. The group's website is sdactorstheatre.net, but good luck finding information on this event there.

Now playing

This Wide Night: Two women, former cellmates, have been released from prison and now must navigate a challenging life of freedom in London. Presented by Ion Theatre Company, it runs through Oct. 11 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest.  iontheatre.com

Corpse!: In London in 1936, a woman plots with a man to murder his wealthy twin brother. Through Oct. 12 at PowPAC in Poway. powpac.org

A Discourse on the Wonders of the Invisible World: A young woman returns to Salem 10 years after the Witch Trials, but she's not the only interesting newcomer. Through Oct. 12 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. moxietheatre.com

Next to Normal: A gripping musical about a suburban family coping with mother Diana's bipolar disorder and delusions of her dead son. Presented by San Diego Musical Theatre, it runs through Oct. 12 at the North Park Theatre. sdmt.org

The Pianist of Willesden Lane: Actor and pianist Mona Golabek tells the story of a 14-year-old music prodigy whose promising career is imperiled by war in Europe in 1938. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it's been extended through Oct. 12 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. sdrep.org 

The Musical of Musicals: The Musical: A musical spoof of —you guessed it—musicals, with humorous takes on several masters of musical theater, such as Stephen Sondheim and Rodgers and Hammerstein. Presented by the Oceanside Theatre Company, it runs through Oct. 19 at The Brooks Theatre in Oceanside. oceansidetheatre.org

Scott Joplin's New Rag: In a world premiere, Robert Barry Fleming, who wrote the script, performs a one-person play about ragtime composer Scott Joplin. Presented by Mo'olelo Performing Arts Company, it runs through Oct. 19 at the 10th Avenue Arts Center in East Village. moolelo.net

The Clean House: In case you missed it at PowPAC in June, it's the story of a woman, her maid who doesn't like cleaning houses and her husband who falls in love with another woman who's dying of cancer. Through Oct. 26 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org

Bright Star: A world-premiere musical by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell about a soldier who returns home to North Carolina from World War II, hooks up with a literary-journal editor and, with her, discovers a life-changing secret. Through Nov. 2 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org

Fool for Love: Performed in rotation with True West, Sam Shepard's drama tells the tale of a woman resisting the offer to return to a dysfunctional existence with an old flame. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through Nov. 2 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com

Les Miserables: In this classic musical, a poor Frenchman spends 19 years in prison after stealing a loaf of bread, only to escape and get caught up in a revolution under an assumed identity. Through Nov. 2 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org

The Royale: In the early 20th century, a black heavyweight boxer finally has the chance to fight for the championship, but his sister is worried about the aftermath should he win. Through Nov. 2 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org

She-rantulas from Outer Space in 3D: Back by popular demand—a comedy about an invading horde of mutant monsters and small-town mom who learns a horrible truth about her little daughter Suzie. Through Nov. 2 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org

True West: Performed in rotation with Fool for Love, Sam Shepard's dark comedy is about two formerly estranged brothers—younger Austin, a screenwriter, and older Lee, a thief who horns in on Austin's career. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through Nov. 2 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com

Win Place or Die… My Jockeys are Killing Me: Mystery Café's latest comic-caper dinner-theater production is set at the Thoroughbred Club at Upson Down Race Track. It's ongoing at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net


See all events on Wednesday, Oct 26