There are three types of relationships in life—those that start in perfection and never falter; those that begin well but fade over time; and those that are doomed from the beginning. Lighting up the stage of the Olinder Theatre in San Jose, Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love, presented by Northside Theatre Company, depicts the dysfunctional connection between a pair of high school sweethearts, Eddie and May, who can’t survive without each other yet can’t stand to be in the same room together.

Set in a dingy motel room in the Mojave Desert, the play is a hybrid of comedy and drama, characterized by subtle humor, passion and the never-ending bickering between the two lovers. Fool for Love originally debuted on a San Francisco stage in 1983 and was later made into a film in 1985. Seeing this production up close in a small theater, however, provides the storyline with an additional dimension.

Audience members are seated in the heat of the action, a mere 10 feet from the stage, enabling attendees to tangibly feel the tension. Northside’s simple production incorporates minimal props and lighting, relying instead on raw emotions and violence to portray the strife the two lovers have experienced.

The performers are all highly capable of delivering the convincing and emotional acting this script requires. Eddie (Jarrod Pirtle) and May (Marjorie Hazeltine) fly from one of the end of the stage to another, spouting insults and yelling at each other in an eerily relatable and realistic way.

Through long exchanges, the history between Eddie and May unfolds, exposing a past littered with heartbreak and conflict reaching back to their childhood. This backwards love story leaves many details to the audience’s imagination, introducing mysterious scenarios. Most intriguing is the presence of an omnipresent man in a rocking chair (Vic Prosak), who speaks only to interject with pieces of wisdom and anecdotes from his life. Throughout the play, the connection between this man and the other characters is slowly revealed, creating a surprising and shocking twist.

The story does not reach a resolution, leaving many questions unanswered and ending in despair. Despite this, Fool for Love is a powerful and compelling production that accurately represents what it is to be painfully in love.

Fool for Love
Runs through Oct. 30
Olinder Theatre, San Jose

Get Tickets and More Info on Northside Theatre Company’s production of Fool for Love