Synopsis:
Dialogues, monologues and ramblings from "Motel Chronicles" form the basis of this play.
 
Performance History

First production: Premiered on July 1, 1981 at the Intersection Theatre in San Francisco, CA. Performances: Wednesday-Saturday thru August 1, 1981.

First NY production: La Mama ETC, billed with "The Sad Lament of Pecos Bill on the Eve of Killing his Wife".
September 1983.
Directed by Julie Directed by Julie Hbert

San Francisco production billed with "The Sad Lament of Pecos Bill on the Eve of Killing his Wife".
The Overtone Theater - Magic Theatre
April 11 May 27, 1984
Directed by Julie Hbert

The Overtone Theatre production was broadcast on KQED TV (San Francisco PBS Channel) on December 18, 1984.

 
Reviews

1983 La Mama Production

David Sterritt, Christian Science Monitor:
Performers Mark Petrakis and O-lan Shepard, who are admirably in tune with their material, glide through a string of monologues and dialogues with a tread so light they hardly leave tracks on the desert their words evoke. Some moments are whimsical, others poignant, or even a little scary. Sam Shepard sees plenty of romance in the desert, but his vision is sardonic enough to include all kinds of incongruous characters, from homey couples to a hard-bitten loner who listens to the stillness of the night and figures a nuclear meltdown must be going on. It's an odd blend of moods, with an impact as sharp as it is subtle."

Frank Rich, NY Times:
In the stage version (of 'Motel Chronicles'), this work is diminished almost beyond recognition: a niggling few of its brief anecdotes and verses are alternately abbreviated and garbled. Though a haunting image sometimes emerges - an insomniac cowboy wonders whether he hears 'a rooster or someone screaming in the distance' - most of the book's mythic pull and considerable humor are gone. In the end, the accompanying jazz riffs and clever sound effects - a synthesizer's coyote squeal or the malevolent scraping of a hubcap - evoke the burnt-out desert of Mr. Shepard's imagination more effectively than the words do. It's a pale landscape, even so. If 'Motel Chronicles' leaves its readers in a hallucinatory fever, the deep trance induced by 'Superstitions' could easily be mistaken for boredom."

Benedict Nightingale, NY Times:
'''Superstitions' consists of snippets from the scattered reverie Mr. Shepard recently published as 'Motel Chronicles,' (and incidentally omitting its most striking segment, the tale of a friend's brain operation). Yet I must confess myself much more interested by the monologues nonchalantly put across by Mark Petrakis and by his occasional conversations with his co-star O-lan Shepard. They offer glimpses of the unsettled furniture of Mr. Shepard's mind: an American Primitive dresser here, a baroque table there, and everywhere chairs in which you and I, too, can sit if we fit. The piece is about dreads and fixations and morbid, pre-dawn imaginings. How the chainsaw will kick back and mutilate you. How nuclear disaster will come and no one will warn you, because you haven't a radio or a working phone or even a good friend to ring you. It is about compulsions and compulsive behavior. How you'll maybe win if you keep certain betting tickets in certain pockets. How you can exorcise an unwanted admirer by walking in perscribed patterns in front of her door - not letting her see you, of course, or you'll die."

Martin Kihn, Columbia Daily Spectator:
"'Superstitions' is a very loose play, consisting of dialogues, monologues and ramblings glued together by 'music, mistaken sounds, and silences.' It opens with a bizarre collection of hisses, the two characters talk, play various instruments (tenor, fiddle, flute, harmonica, hubcap), all the time pianist-drummer at the back of the stage imitates a musical desert. There is no storyline as such, only snatches of scenes first set down in prose form for Shepard's 'Motel Chronicles' book last year."

"The man (Mark Petrakis) represents the fearing side of the cowboy. He says: 'certain thoughts I'm afraid might actually come true.' He does battle with his chain saw, tells us how he shifts his race-tickets from pocket to pocket for luck - 'Today, none of this is working' - and in a particularly funny moment states, 'Weird. Atomic weather. Earthquakes probably. Probably means earthquakes. Except the dogs are supposed to go crazy... Maybe something's cracked at the Plant. That Core thing... Nice thoughts. I only came out to empty the garbage.' He is at his most poetic here: 'Just once I want to hite the road clear-headed.'"

"The man in front of me kept shouting to his anorexic son that the woman (O-lan Shepard) was 'imagination.' It is true that she has the smaller part, and that she tends to be kind of hazy. But she is not imagination; she is also fear. And she has the play's richest line: 'you people with pictures of palm trees in front your eyes. Maybe you could bend a little.' O-lan Shepard may have a small voice, - but she has that unattractive, barren look so crucial to Shepard's lost-woman archetype."

"There are problems, of course. Mark Petrakis is more loveable than rugged, and he has a lot of trouble with all the consonants in the words 'redwing' and 'blackbird'. As a couple the two are very fluid, but 'Superstitions'' lines are so Western, so exactly unnatural that the actors seemed almost embarrassed to be saying them. Likewise, there was an incident with a radio - at one point the actors even imitate a radio - that made me think there was a failure in technology. More rehearsal might have cleared this up. And when the actors had to play instruments, they were bad."