MEG's 'Fool for Love' is a one-act play that packs a lot of punch
Seth Thompson has been dipping his toes in the waters of stage directing for a few years.
The Keedysville resident assistant directed Maryland Entertainment Group’s production of “Dracula” two years ago and “To Kill a Mockingbird” shortly before that. He kicked around the idea of taking the reins as a director, but wasn’t sure which show until MEG’s artistic director Sam Little handed him a script.
“He said, ‘Read this and tell me what you think,’” Thompson said.
The script, Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love,” hit him on a personal level.
“The minute I read it, I was like, ‘This is the one I have to direct,’” Thompson said. “There is this sense of family in the show. It reminded me a little bit of certain things in my own experience. It made sense to me and I knew that I had to be the one to tell this story for MEG.”
“Fool for Love” will run Thursday, April 25 through Sunday, April 28, at Hagerstown Community College’s Black Box Theater. The 1984 Obie Award Winner for Best New American Play explores love, family and the human condition through a cast of four characters led by two named Eddie and May.
While MEG typically does not pre-cast shows, the whole time Thompson read the script he was thinking “for good or for bad, Sam Little was born to play Eddie.”
“I could see him. I could hear him. I thought, ‘It has to be him,’” Thompson said.
Little agreed to play the role. In her first turn with MEG, Bette Cassatt of Frederick, Md., was cast as May.
Thompson said Shepard’s script offers “the most beautiful telling of the human condition that I’ve ever read.”
“Sometimes a human really, really thinks he wants something and has to have something but in reality, it’s not something he should have,” he said. “That’s a little bit of what’s going on with May and Eddie.”
Shepard passed away in 2017. Little long admired Shepard’s writing, and thinking back over the prolific playwright’s work inspired him to have MEG stage one of his plays.
“(Shepard’s death) is what really made me think, ‘Hey. Sam Shepard. Yeah. I want to pay tribute to the man and to his career,’” Little said.
In “Fool for Love,” Shepard deftly crafted a couple whose relationship was “built on deception, but there is still love there that cannot be denied,” Little said.
“The script does a very good job unfolding. At some point, the audience will be like, ‘Oh. Now I know what’s going on!’” he said. “It’s a one-act with a small cast but it packs a lot of punch.”
Little described Eddie as “uber-masculine, a little chauvinistic, raw and real.”
“He is one character not trying to be anything that he is not. He is just what he is. I don’t mean that he is always honest,” he said, “but he is unapologetically himself.”
Though he is tangled in an ill-fated love story and falling into the tragic ways of his father, Eddie also is amusing.
“It’s not often you get a character as naturally funny as he is. He is not trying to be funny. He is just funny being himself. He is not the brightest guy in the world either. He is very simple,” Little said.
Cassatt said May is a departure from the period piece roles that she usually tends to play. Her character tries to break free of a negative and dysfunctional cycle. She quits drinking, and finds a job and a new place to live.
“A contemporary play, something edgy like this, is not how people who know me normally see me,” Cassatt said.
Because she does not have a lot of experiences similar to those of her character, Cassatt said she uses her robust imagination to bring May to life.
“I’ve been just figuring out how to paint her with the right brush strokes, how to develop the character and physicalize it, how to get the words to come out of my mouth the way I want them to,” she said.
While the play offers complex and nuanced characters that drive the story, it also features an important plot piece that the actors and director were careful to protect. They did not want to spoil it, they said, by revealing it ahead of time.
“You’ll have to come and see to find out,” Thompson said.
Top photo: Sam Little and Bette Cassatt portray Eddie and May, an ill-fated couple in Maryland Entertainment Group's production of “Fool for Love.” (Photo by Perk Hull Design)