Eddie (Terry Hempleman) and May (Jennifer Blagen) in Fool for Love.
Photo by Drew Trampe
Bain Boehlke is positively giddy about the Jungle Theater's fall show, Fool for Love. "It's like theater on acid," says Boehlke, who is directing and designing the set for the production.
It's the second time around with Sam Shepard's play for the Jungle, where it first ran in 1996. At the time, the Jungle was around the corner on Lake Street at a tiny, 90-seat storefront.
Terry Hempleman returns from that first production as well, playing all-American cowboy Eddie. He is joined this time by Jennifer Blagen as May, Jason Peterson as Martin, and Allen Hamilton as the Old Man. In the original production, Boehlke played the Old Man.
The current production "is a whole second chapter from our first chapter," Hempleman says. "The Jungle is an amazing place. It is the second visitation to the play. We had a five-week rehearsal process, which is one, two, or three weeks longer than other theaters in town. A play like this withstands a deeper scrutiny. Bain is relentless in examining what this play is about."
"It's a totally American play. It could not have been written in Germany or Italy or France or Moscow. It was an instant sensation. It is such a terrific story and told in such an incredible way," Boehlke says.
For Boehlke and Hempleman, that comes from an extra 17 years of perspective about the play, its meaning, and the best way to stage it.
"Sam Shepard described Eddie as being 38, but looking a decade older. When Terry first played it, he was actually a little too young. Everyone thinks it's about a young man and a sexy young woman, but they have lived these hard lives," Boehlke says.
Shepards's play centers on Eddie and May, two ex lovers lost in a hotel room in the Mojave Desert. Just as important is the Old Man, who turns out to be a central character in both of the lovers' lives. For Boehlke, the entire play is a product of this man's memories and delusions.
To intensify this, Boehlke's set uses forced perspective in the hotel room, while the entire proscenium is framed in neon. "It's even groovier than it was before. The neon is there, and it is on during the whole show," he says.
One clue Hempleman and Boehlke had the first time around with the play was a lecture Shepard gave at the University of Minnesota. "He talked about one of the themes we were looking at, about male identity and female identity. What does it mean to be a man? If you can hold your liquor, are you a man?" Hempleman says. "No one is in a deeper identity crisis than Eddie. We were on the right track the first time. Coming back to it has been interesting to see what the fallout is from these lost men in America."
As the company has put the piece together they have found that it is very intense and relatively short. "There is a tremendous sense of tempo and rhythm. The story is really hot," Boehlke says.
Fool for Love
Friday, September 6 through October 20
The Jungle Theater
2951 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
For tickets and information, call 612.822.7063 or visit online