Fool for Love, Reverie Theatre Company, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Sam Shepard's 1984 drama about the tumultuous love between half siblings marked a turning point in this great writer's career: it was his first play that didn't matter. Despite using the kind of material he'd worked brilliantly in True West and Curse of the Starving Class--obsessively intertwined people tear themselves apart in a quasi-mythic, quasi-kitschy western setting--the 15-year amorous battle between May and Eddie never evokes the larger cultural narratives that gave the earlier plays power. Even a mysterious old man who comments on the action from a parallel universe feels more like a gimmick than an honest stab at mysticism.
So any production of Fool for Love lives or dies on May and Eddie's relationship, the only thing at stake in the play. Director Chris Pomeroy brings actors Eva Wilhelm and Michael Bassett a good way toward finding those stakes despite an awkward set, which bears little resemblance to any existing motel room (there isn't even a number on the door). Wilhelm and Bassett understand Shepard's rhythms and wisely make their exhausting affair as wearisome as it is explosive. Still, their relationship tends to smolder when it should be red-hot. It burns brightest when Scott Hamilton Westman shows up as May's nebbishy date; he's the perfect comic Milquetoast foil to drive the lovers to the limits of their patience.