Dark stories by master of drama come to SDSU

by David Dixon

Writer and actor Sam Shepard is known for his offbeat and highly acclaimed plays. It then makes sense that the gutsy and edgy director, Peter James Cirino, has brought ”Two by Shepard: Action and Fool for Love” to San Diego State.

“Two By Shepard” begins with “Fool For Love,” a twisted love story about Eddie (Vincent Cozzolino) and May (Katie Rich), who have been dating on and off since high school. May knows Eddie is a  dangerous person, but she unfortunately keeps on falling for his offbeat charm. This situation will surely sound familiar to pretty much anyone who has been in a romantic relationship.

“Action” takes place in a strange future where four odd individuals—Jeep (Belle Adams), Shooter (Michael Italiano), Liza (Aeriel Colbert) and Lupe (Paola Kubelis)—live together. Throughout the evening, they bicker and try to make sense of the past. While strong in body, they are all emotionally vulnerable.

Both of the one-acts are different in tone and approach. “Fool for Love” features plenty of stylish language, but the plot is relatively easy to follow and full of dark twists.

“Action” is much more complicated and contains intentionally bizarre rants and allusions. The science fiction tale is narratively abstract, yet is still a highly satisfying experience.

As always, Cirino’s direction stands out in the way he controls the on-stage mood. Both “Fool for Love” and “Action” can be uncomfortably tense, as well as humorous.

The atmosphere for “Action” is arguably the more extreme of the two. One second, a situation is scary, and the next hilariously cartoonish slapstick comedy occurs.

Rene Nielson’s scenic design is remarkable. To really appreciate how scenery affects “Two by Shepard,” stay in the Experimental Theatre at intermission to see the motel room from “Fool for Love” transform into the futuristic world of “Action.”

Nathan Davis’ sound design helps create a sense of dread throughout Shepard’s prose. Whether audio of gun shots are playing in “Fool for Love,” or trippy music is incorporated in “Action,” the stakes always seem high for the characters whenever background acoustics are used.

The ensembles in “Two by Shepard” expertly handle Shepard’s dialogue. Rich and Adams create empathy for strong, but deeply damaged women. Cozzolino and Italiano take part in some physically impressive gags, and the male leads are capable of being quite vehement as well.

“Two by Shepard” features brilliant writing from the multitalented legend and provides provocative entertainment. Cirino was wise in picking a season opener that is smart, thrilling and extremely engaging.

Tickets and information about “Two By Shepard: Action and Fool for Love” can be found at theatre.sdsu.edu.

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Photo by Jordan Owen, senior staff photographer