Founded scarcely a year ago by Rich Ferraioli and Kirk Gostkowski, Variations Theatre Group (VTG) got off to a roaring start in 2010 with its first production, The Shape of Things, directed by Ferraioli and starring Gostkowski (see my review of that earlier play posted on August 1, 2010). And the dynamic duo hasn’t slowed down since.
For their first production of the 2011 season, they selected Fool For Love by Sam Shepard. Originally produced more than a quarter century ago, Fool For Love is somewhat typical of Shepard’s American West themed works. Here Eddie (Kirk Gostkowski), a rodeo cowboy and “Marlboro Man” wannabe, and May (Christina Elise Perry), whose relationship turns out to be much more complex than we might have expected, sustain an angry on-again-off-again, love-hate relationship that is not only interrupted, but accentuated, by the arrival of Martin (Collin Meath), the mild mannered man who May began to date in Eddie’s absence. The cast is rounded out by The Old Man (Charlie Moss) who appears at different times – but only in the imaginations of Eddie and May.
Fool for Love, despite having won an Obie award as best play when it was first produced and going on to become a major motion picture, is not really one of Shepard’s best plays. It mostly treads familiar ground, is hackneyed in spots, and isn’t as fully realized a work as might be expected of one of America’s premier playwrights. But even a relatively inferior Shepard play is better than most other playwrights’ best, especially when the play is well produced.
And here it certainly is well produced. (We saw the play at The Access Theatre yesterday and were quite impressed.) Ferraioli directed and Gostkowski starred – just as they did in The Shape of Things – and much of the credit for the success of this production belongs to them. But Perry, Moss and Meath all turned in equally fine performances and also deserve commendation for their work.