Fierce for Love

Last season’s world premiere of Linda Vista at Steppenwolf Theatre made clear that a certain White-macho-centric theater, Chicago is famous for, is spiraling down to tone-deaf oblivion faster than we ever saw coming.

All those playwrights slowly but surely meeting the obsolescence they deserve were highly influenced by Sam Shepard, but have never managed to reach his heights. You see, in Shepard’s universe, a silence, a scream, or a dysfunctional White family are not a self-serving shtick. In Shepard, abusive and violent White men are never idealized or saved in the last minute through a redemption they didn’t earn.

In the right hands, a Shepard silence, a scream, and a dysfunctional White family can become truly transcendental. And the redemption of the playwright’s alterEGO rarely arrives by curtain call.

Case in point: the Facilty Theatre Production of Shepard’s Fool for Love closing this Sunday at Chopin Theater. This first show of the first season for a new theater company in town that fills a void we knew existed but we didn’t know how to name.

Chicago long-timers Kirk Anderson, Artistic Director, and Shawna Franks, Managing Director had the terrific idea of assigning the direction of this first show to Belgrade-trained Zeljko Djukic from TUTA. Djukic’s taste for the uncanny and his European aesthetics of layers and reveals are a perfect match for this material.

The now iconic roles of May and Eddie are brought to life by a prodigious Tiffany Bedwell and a devastatingly touching John Byrnes. It’s not my fault that describing a performance as “fierce” has become such a cliche. What can I do if these two fools for love are simply “fierce”?

Bedwell is best known in Chicago for her work at Trap Door Theatre. Having spent so much time down that dark alley serves well both the eerie vision of Djukic and the technical demands of Shepard’s play. In the wink of a eye, her May goes from heartbreaking to pathetic, and back. Time after time she is able to sustain both notes with absolute brio.

I want to thank Byrnes for exploring with such bravery the vulnerabilities of Eddie and for refusing to fall back on the emotional common places of kitchen-sink dramas.

So that was the first show…Boom!

On deck: The Little Match Girl Passion directed by dado, following in the steps of her acclaimed remount of Sam Shepard’s Simpatico in Princeton.

Can you wait? I can’t!


A few tickets are left for the closing weekend of “Fool for Love” at Chopin Theatre. For tickets click here.

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