CUMBERLAND - Just days ago, I walked into Cumberland Theatre, with my little notebook and my pencil - intending to take in another theatre production. I would enter into another world for 90 minutes or so, to have a vicarious experience with actors who would bring their characters to life.

By Trish Morgan
CUMBERLAND - Just days ago, I walked into Cumberland Theatre, with my little notebook and my pencil - intending to take in another theatre production. I would enter into another world for 90 minutes or so, to have a vicarious experience with actors who would bring their characters to life.
Well. That is somewhat of an understatement.
I was the first one to arrive into the darkened theatre, so I stood in front of the stage - the motel, out in the middle of nowhere in no man's land - and took a look at the details of the incredible set created by Rhett Wolford and his crew. An old bed with rumpled sheets and bedspread. An old rickety air conditioner in the window - most likely breathing its last gasps of cool air into a room filled with peeling paint on the walls. Crooked, generic paintings and pictures hung without thought in a room filled with a history of nothingness. Clothes and inanimate objects scattered here and there - taking one to a time where red lights and sirens were a common occurrence - a dusty, resigned life of "who really cares."
The late playwright and actor Sam Shepard stated that "Fool for Love" was to be performed with no intermission...to be performed relentlessly without a break. Director Darrell Rushton did just that.
When the play began, you immediately were drawn into the lives - the long, painful, tragic lives of May and Eddie. When the play begins, May is sitting on the motel floor, with her knees pulled to her chin and her arms wrapped around her legs - obviously trembling, and on somewhat of the tail end of a crying jag. The kind of cry that comes from a life of sadness and rejection, the kind of cry where you exhaust every emotion from deep within and there's no more to spend.
Standing in the doorway is Eddie - a wannabe cowboy and rodeo performer - here again to drop into May's life as if he just can't stay away...can't get her out of his blood. He goes over to her, with a slight cradle of one of her long, curly strands of hair, and at first, she feels his kindness. But as quick and unexpected, she turns on him like a snake - screaming at him to go, latching onto him and telling him to stay and then punching him and screaming at him to go.
The audience has now been pulled into the violence and the dejection of their long-term relationship. Eddie has had a lifetime of absences and love affairs, and May has had a lifetime of waiting - trying to exist, yet waiting and waiting on the desperate passion in this "doomed from the beginning" relationship.
When Kimberli Rowley is cast in any production in the area, there are certain expectations. After all, she has nearly 20 years of starring, producing, choreographing and directing some of the most outstanding plays and musicals ever to hit the stage. So, we go to see what she will bring to the stage. In this play, written masterfully by Shepard and considered to be his purest work, we know that Kimberli will have her character down to an art. We know she will take the physicality and the searing intensity of the role of May and make it her own. We know Kimberli Rowley rises to the occasion with every single character she portrays. We buy our tickets, we take our seats, and we wait and we watch. And in the case of "Fool for Love," she takes us into the softness and desperation of May - right into the very heart of a tragic, fated life.
When you come to Cumberland Theatre to see this production this final weekend, you will see Tom Dacey Carr take Eddie to the edge - an edge where he cannot subdue the burning passion and the love he feels for May, but yet he tries to live without her through any means - tries to forget her, tries to live without her, tries to get the poison out of his veins. Tom is magnificent as Eddie. I wasn't on stage, but I was there - right there in that dingy, has-been motel - feeling every emotion, every bit of raw hurt and betrayal. I haven't had the pleasure of seeing Tom on stage prior to my seeing this production, but if hebrings that kind of energy and that kind of mastery to a character...it won't be my last time.
Now, when these two are screaming at each other, banging doors, slamming down their glasses - there is The Old Man, played by Philip Schroeder, just in the shadows out of the main scene - offering his perspective on what's happening between these two ill-advised lovebirds. Phillip has a lot to say, and at first, we just don't know if he is a ghost or exactly why he is there, how he plays into this charade of a love affair. It's obvious that The Old Man is intertwined somehow, and as the play moves forward, we learn more and more about love and loss. Philip was charming, sort of folksy and old-time country...believable and larger than life. He was perfectly cast...absolutely.
We knew that May had a date that evening, and it was sometime before the date showed up - at a very inconvenient time, right smack in the middle of screams and accusations and unsettling drama. Martin, played by Erik Alexis, comes in all "how do ya do" - unaware at first of the darkness he has just walked into. Erik, as each of his co-stars, has a wealth of experience behind him on stage. In this play, "Marty" as Eddie calls him, Erik is oblivious to the disease of May and Eddie. He's just here to pick up May and go to the movies.
Sounds simple, right? Not here, not here in this stark motel at the edge of the Mojave Desert. Nothing here is simple. We, here in the audience, are now at the edge of our seats. We don't even notice that there's no intermission. We are mesmerized, we are transfixed, we are right in the middle of this story. We are intruding, yet, we can't leave. We have to know. We have to know why, when, how.
At this point, the tears are rolling down my face - I can't stop them. And unfortunately, no tissues in sight. My little notebook sits beside me, although my pencil is in my hand, for some reason but. But, there are only two little notes I made in the beginning of the play. And then, notes were unnecessary.
The story unravels, and we feel. I don't know if anyone else in the audience was crying, but you could hear a pin drop. The audience was captivated. We were all parts of this little circle of intruders and watchers - knowing now how the story was going to end. We couldn't stop it. Like a train wreck...there was nothing we could do.
At the conclusion of the play, I wanted to stand - oh, how I wanted to stand and give this cast the biggest standing ovation. I was so overcome with emotion, and had to remain in the theatre for about ten minutes just to gather composure. Boy, did this cast make me feel.
Tonight, you can see "Fool for Love" at 8 p.m., and the final curtain is tomorrow on Sunday, 2 p.m. Cumberland Theatre is located at 101 N. Johnson St. To make reservations, call 301-759-4990, although tickets will be available at the door.
This production does contain adult-themes and language, so leave the kiddos with the babysitter and enjoy some time away from home - right here in this motel room. But, bring tissues.