Through searing truth and dark humor, Fool for Love shows the story of two people who just can't live without each other whether they like it or not. May is hiding out at an old motel in the Mojave Desert. Eddie, an old flame and childhood friend, finds her there and threatens to drag her back into the life from which she had fled. Reality and dream; truth and lies; past and present mingle in an explosive, emotional experience.

Sam Shepard

Shepard wrote Fool for Love shortly after breaking up with his wife O-Lan. In a letter to his friend and virtuoso collaborator, Joe Chaikin, Shepard described his play as "the outcome of all this tumultuous feeling I've been going through this past year…it's a very emotional play and in some ways embarrassing for me to witness but somehow necessary at the same time."

"Falling in love is such a dumbfounding experience. In one way you wouldn’t trade it for the world. In another way it’s absolute hell."

Performance History

It was first performed at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco on February 8, 1983 with Kathy Baker as May and Ed Harris as Eddie.  It had its New York City premiere at the Circle Repertory Theatre on May 26, 1983, with the same cast before later transferring to the Douglas Fairbanks Theatre.

The London production in 1984 starred Ian Charleson and Julie Walters. It premiered at the National Theatre and moved to the Lyric Theatre in 1985.

The play was revived at the Apollo Theatre in London in 2006 with Martin Henderson and Juliette Lewis in a production directed by Lindsay Posner.

The play was revived again at Riverside Studios in London in 2010, with Carl Barat and Sadie Frost in the lead roles.

The play had its Massachusetts premiere at the Williamstown Theater Festival in Williamstown, MA on July 24, 2014. It starred Sam Rockwell and Nina Arianda.

The Williamstown staging moved to Broadway and opened on October 8, 2015, running through December 13, 2015.


Awards & nominations
Obie Awards
1. Direction, Sam Shepard
2. Best New American Play, Sam Shepard
3. Performance, Ed Harris
4. Performance, Kathy Baker

Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1984

Reviews for first production
Frank Rich, NY Times, May 27, 1983
The production at the Circle Rep allows New York audiences to see the play in its native staging. Fool for Love has been transported here from Mr. Shepard's home base, the Magic Theater of San Francisco, complete with the original cast under the author's direction. The actors are all excellent: With utter directness, they create their own elusive yet robust world - feisty, muscular, sexually charged - and we either enter it or not.

Fool for Love isn't the fullest Shepard creation one ever hopes to encounter, but, at this point in this writer's prolific 20-year career, he almost demands we see his plays as a continuum: they bleed together. In the mode of his recent work, this play has a title and beat that's more redolent of country music than rock; the theatrical terms are somewhat more realistic than outright mythic (though reality is always in the eye of the beholder). The knockabout physical humor sometimes becomes excessive both in the writing and the playing; there are also, as usual, some duller riffs that invite us to drift away.

It could be argued, perhaps, that both the glory and failing of Mr. Shepard's art is its extraordinary afterlife: His works often play more feverishly in the mind after they're over than they do while they're before us in the theater. But that's the way he is, and who would or could change him? Like the visionary pioneers who once ruled the open geography of the West, Mr. Shepard rules his vast imaginative frontier by making his own, ironclad laws.
John Beaufort, Christian Sciene Monitor, June 9, 1983
The Magic Theatre of San Francisco has come to town with a production of a new Sam Shepard opus that makes extreme demands on its actors, audience, and scenery. In some respects, especially the scenery. Andy Stacklin's deliberately hideous, green-painted motel-room setting features two doors, one on each side of the stage. The repeated door slamming not only creates a horrendous percussive effect but punctuates the hateful struggle that occupies Mr. Shepard's Fool for Love. It assaults the characters and assails the audience.

An acclaimed award-winning dramatist, Mr. Shepard can endow everyday vernacular with eloquence. He finds humor, however caustic, even in the midst of desperation. His harsh views are intelligently expressed. But somewhat in the manner of a Hitchcock, he employs his clever techniques to make the audience squirm...

Because of its excesses, Fool for Love proves painful but not moving, lacerating but not redeeming, sensational but emotionally starved. The characters may cry but the spectator (at least this spectator) remains untouched. The work is badly wanting in tender mercies.

As Mrs. Fiske once said of Ibsen's Ghosts, Mr. Shepard has written a play in which ''the sins of the fathers are visited on the audience.'' And those sins include what Mr. Shepard regards as the degeneration and betrayal of the American dream.
Michael Feingold, Village Voice:
The richness and excitement of the play are compounded by the fact that this is the first time New York has seen one of Shepard's plays in his own staging.... It's possible to be slightly sick with envy at the fact that our most gifted playwright, already known as a fine film actor, a decent songwriter, and a tolerable rock drummer, turns out to be —
at least for his own work — a superb director as well."
Reviews: Manhattan Theatre Club NY production - 2015

Jacob Gallagher-Ross, Village Voice:
"Despite its desert setting, the first Broadway staging of Sam Shepard's 'Fool for Love' doesn't give off much heat... Arianda, miscast, remains trapped outside Shepard's imagination, looking in... It's Shepard at his most lyrical. But Rockwell and Arianda constrain the imaginative flights to bitter tableside confessions, tequila bottle close at hand. Fools for realism, these lovers never make it outside the motel room and into the vast night beyond."

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News:
"First seen in 1983, the play is a compact yet rich work. It’s also a showcase for its leads. Daniel Aukin directs a well-paced production and guides the cast to juicy performances."

Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal:
"It’s been 15 years since any of Mr. Shepard’s plays were last seen on Broadway, and “Fool for Love,” which dates from 1983, had never been staged there until now. It’s a pleasure to be reminded of what he could do back in the days when he was turning out one exciting script after another."

Toby Zinman, Philadelphia Inquirer:
"Shepard’s first stage direction reads: 'This play is to be performed relentlessly, without a break.' Under Daniel Aukin’s direction, the pace seems much too measured, not even remotely relentless since much of the danger has been choreographed out of it."

Marilyn Stasio, Variety:
"Actors love this play, as do student audiences. And if laid-back Rockwell and body-conscious Arianda don’t quite have their acts together, Shepard is served well enough to satisfy his fan base."

Alexis Soloski, The Guardian:
"Until its brilliant final 15 minutes, Aukin’s production doesn’t have that magnetic force. Arianda is vital and absorbing, Rockwell is easy in his body and forceful in his affect. He is also surprisingly good with a lariat. They kiss and punch and slam each other against walls and doors, which boom in Ryan Rumery’s neatly extravagant soundscape. But they often seem to be marking time."

Christopher Kelly,
"The director, Daniel Aukin, strikes just the right notes of urgency and uncertainty; even if you've seen "Fool for Love" before, you feel as if you have no idea what's coming next. The play builds, thrillingly, to an off-stage fire that bathes the set in a warm red glow — and, indeed, if ever a production deserved the adjective 'combustible,' it's this one."

Linda Winer, Newsday:
"Although Arianda and Rockwell have the looks, the presence and the guts, there isn't the down-and-dirty chemistry that makes the fate of the lovers' long and conflicted relationship feel inevitable and dangerous. They seem more like beautiful roughhousing puppies than people caught in the push/pull torrents of a forbidden relationship."

Charles McNulty, LA Times:
"The revelation for me was Rockwell, who sheds new light on Eddie, the rodeo stunt man who comes barreling back into May's life despite the impossibility of their love... Rockwell's performance never lets us forget that 'Fool for Love' is a dark and twisted comedy."

Robert Kahn, NBC New York:
"'Fool for Love' is classic Shepard: Family dysfunction, a Western setting and some dark and twisted stuff leading up to a big reveal (or two). It’s all handled with an enormous amount of skill and affection - the 75 minutes fly by, and we feel as if we know these folks intimately."

Joe McGovern, EW:
"Anyone who’s ever slammed a door in anger will immediately recognize the hollow, stage-echo falseness of the two doors on the Fool for Love set—two doors that get slammed about once for each of the 75 minutes... The slamming, which produces a stereo boom you can feel in your organs, eventually becomes rote and numbing. As does much else in this staunch, uninvolving production, which features tempestuous performers in Nina Arianda and Sam Rockwell, but offers them not much more than glum platitudes on bad romance."

David Finkle, Huffington Post:
"It may be that the lure for actors of such pungent roles explains the frequent 'Fool for Love' sightings. Indeed, it may be that Shepard's demanding work-out is more entertaining for the performers who get to take on Eddie and May than it is for anyone who gets to watch them."

Hilton Als, The New Yorker:
"Arianda and Rockwell pass down Shepard’s story in unexpected ways that are informed by their lionhearted fearlessness when it comes to failing. To understand Eddie and May is to understand that it’s nearly impossible to get those characters “right”; as written, they keep drifting, losing ground, walking away, or rushing toward emotions that Shepard treats like dunes of beautiful shifting Mojave sand."

Roma Torre, NY1:
"We are in Shepard territory here; disaffection, alienation, familial bonds - all explored in the context of a region that has lost its romantic pull on our psyche...Those amped up doors are written in the stage directions by the way. However, amid all that sound and fury, there is not much in this play that resonates beyond some stylish writing and a chance for a quartet of fine actors to strut their stuff."

Christopher Kelly,
"The director, Daniel Aukin, strikes just the right notes of urgency and uncertainty; even if you've seen "Fool for Love" before, you feel as if you have no idea what's coming next. The play builds, thrillingly, to an off-stage fire that bathes the set in a warm red glow — and, indeed, if ever a production deserved the adjective 'combustible,' it's this one."

Elysa Gardner, USA Today:
"For 75 minutes, director Daniel Aukin and his flawless cast, led by a riveting Nina Arianda and a fiercely unsettling Sam Rockwell, deliver, never allowing themselves or the audience an uncharged moment."

Ben Brantley, New York Times:
"Love as a battlefield on which nobody wins has seldom been mapped as thrillingly as it is in Daniel Aukin’s definitive revival of this bruising drama from 1983. That’s in large part because as the inexorably coupled May and Eddie, Nina Arianda and Sam Rockwell exude the sort of chemistry from which nuclear meltdowns are made."

Robert Feldberg, North Jersey:
"In the revival, in a much larger theater that perhaps diminishes the flow of the characters’ feelings, the visceral energy – and sexual tension — is much lower, allowing us to notice how modest the play really is."

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter:
"While there’s no denying their combustible chemistry, I couldn’t get past the impression that only Rockwell seems a natural inhabitant of Shepard country... May clings like a vine to Eddie one minute and then breaks their passionate kiss with a knee to the groin the next, but the desperation behind her push-pull instability in this production is unpersuasive. When Arianda shouts her love and loathing for Eddie while barreling in and out of her bathroom refuge, what we're watching is a miscast actor working very hard, undermining the pathos of a woman gripped by primal emotions she can’t control."

Jil Picariello, Zeal NYC:
"Rockwell brings layers of pain and anger and vulnerability to a role that could easily be paper thin in less capable hands. Arianda, the brilliant star of Venus in Fur from a couple of years back, is nearly his equal, but maybe because her part has less shading, or maybe because playwright Sam Shepherd gets men like Eddie better than he gets a woman like May, she’s standing in Rockwell’s shadow for most of the evening."

David NouNou, StageZine:
"Daniel Aukin directs his cast with a firm hand, but unfortunately the problem here is not the acting or the direction; it is the vastness of the stage... After all the setting is a small, seedy motel room in the Mojave Desert. The expanse of the Friedman stage, or for that matter any Broadway theater stage, makes it lose its claustrophobic sensibility and, in the process, that desperate tension that is so essential to this play is lost."

Darryl Reilly,
"Nina Arianda and Sam Rockwell have each demonstrated during their careers that they are fine actors but in this weak revival of Sam Shepard’s autobiographical romantic modern classic 'Fool for Love', they both lack the innate charisma to fully succeed at their roles as larger-than-life tempestuous lovers... Their performances are capable but are ultimately superficial in relation to the demands of this work... Due to this casting that’s not really achieved and so the 75 minutes are often sluggish."

Matthew Murray, Talkin Broadway:
"On Broadway, Dane Laffrey's tiny, oppressive box of a motel room floats, pointlessly and unwanted, on the large Friedman stage, striking another unfortunate note of lifelessness. The set's being big enough to match its theater wouldn't solve all that ails this 'Fool for Love', but it might accentuate or promote the kind of urgency and claustrophobia that this rendition so desperately cries out for. After all, heat does tend to dissipate in too much space."

Sandi Durell, Theater Pizzazz:
"Eddie, a well chosen Rockwell, is a lasso-circling, bow-legged, beaten down cowboy, who thoroughly understands and connects to all the deeper emotional turmoil as if he actually experienced every moment of the character...Arianda, on the other hand, although up to the task of the extreme physicality of the character looks great and appears desperate but seems a bit divested as May; she does a lot of screaming at high pitch levels but it feels more scripted rather than coming from deeper more agonizing emotions."

Tom Wicker, Exeunt Magazine:
"While the play lurches a little towards the end, Shepard weaves compellingly sad poetry out of the wasted lives of his characters, which this production makes real and vivid. And if it starts with a tableau, it ends in blackness, with the cycle starting again as the old man’s voice rings out plaintively in sudden, fierce dark."

Jesse Green, Vulture:
"The production, already excellent when presented at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2014, has only improved. Physically, it is just about perfect, especially the lighting design by Justin Townsend, which creates its poetic effects (as the play does) from the most concrete situations.”

Robert Hofler, The Wrap:
"Arianda may be the first actor to feature both arms and legs akimbo, and when she’s not working those long limbs, she’s running around on the set’s motel-room bed like a 3-year-old without her Ritalin… With Arianda offstage, it’s possible to notice Rockwell and Pelphrey, and to see that they’re embodying their respective characters with understated grace."