Through Sunday, June 25
Research Triangle High School Theatre, Durham

For some, Father’s Day is more of a reckoning than a celebration, a time for arguing with old ghosts instead of relaxing over burgers and beers. All of which makes Fool for Love, Sam Shepard’s 1983 Pulitzer Prize finalist, the perfect play for the holidayor not, depending.

A dear, disreputable, and definitely dead old dad (a grizzled Joe Christian) watches from the corner of a dingy Mojave Desert motel room, swigging from a crumpled brown bag as he keeps a weather eye on the reunion taking place there. A scrawny, self-styled rodeo stuntman named Eddie (Ryan Ladue) says he’s stalked the object of his attentions, May (Diana Cameron McQueen), some 2,000 miles to find her herethe latest round in fifteen unhappy years of cyclic commitment and abandonment.

As Eddie restakes his claim on May’s life while nursing a long-held grudge and a bottle of cheap tequila, the Old Man provides color commentary on the resulting battle, along with clues about Eddie and May’s relationship and his own ties to them both.

Under Andy Hayworth’s direction, the collection of character studies and conflicts in this inaugural McQueen & Company production play out as per the stage direction “relentlessly without a break.” As Eddie, Ladue has broadened his range, growing increasingly believable as the crippling vulnerabilities beneath a whip-lean bully’s thin skin emerge. McQueen explored the fatigue of a lengthy emotional battle and the double bind that simultaneously repels and attracts May to Eddie.

Occasionally, all three actors short-changed moments that could have generated more of a dramatic charge, but Joshua Mardrice Henderson was strong as Martin, the hapless local swain who gets caught up in this three-way, long-term emotional tug of war. He’s the odd man out in a intriguing cryptogram of relationships. Recommended.