Eddie and May have no excuse now.
Before, when they were young lovers, they did not know that they had a shared history coursing through their veins. They could pursue their desires to their hungry hearts’ content without pangs of conscience or questions about what the kids might look like.
Now, though, they are mature adults fully aware of that their attraction is very complicated in Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love.”
In the neon-outlined, flea-bitten motel room where she lives in the Mojave Desert and where he has surprised her with a visit, their bottled-up lust slams her up against walls like a hot wind in Bain Boehlke’s engrossing staging of Shepard’s one-act.
If the riveting production, which opened Friday at the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis, keeps a viewer on the edge of his seat, it’s mostly because Terry Hempleman and Jennifer Blagen bring such heat to Eddie and May.
She is a feral creature who, when the lights go up on the show, is not even clearly defined as a human being. She’s sitting on the sofa, facing forward with her head between her legs. Her long brown hair obscures her face so that you don’t know her from a dry mop or the Addams family’s Cousin Itt.
She rises from there, flinging hair, emotions and everything else, it seems, in a performance that veers from mysterious quiet to sudden tempests and bombast. Blagen memorably brought a similar roiling emotional undertow to roles in “God of Carnage” at the Guthrie Theater and, going back a bit, in “Dutchman” at Pillsbury House Theatre. She is indelibly potent in this production.
She has a perfect match in Hempleman, who infuses testosterone-addled Eddie with a hunter’s focus. In trying to convince May to come home with him so that they can live together on a trailer on a farm they always coveted, he vacillates between stalking his prey and seducing her.
Shepard’s compact play also includes The Old Man (Allen Hamilton), a strange figure who sits in the shadows on stage left and interacts with the characters, as well as May’s deer-in-the-headlights boyfriend, Martin (Jason Peterman as a featherweight innocent).
Part of Shepard’s cycle of plays about family dysfunction, “Fool for Love” does not have a classic dramatic structure. Yet the mysteries in this experimental piece, which Shepard is said to have written in part based on the crumbling of his marriage to screen star O-Lan Jones, keep a viewer hanging on.
Boehlke’s production makes you want to find out why The Old Man keeps interjecting comments, why the two lovers are both drawn to and repulsed by other like magnets and what is the meaning of all the echoes and red flashing lights.