Shepard's 'Fool for Love' to open Rep Stage's 11th season at HCC

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Lust, anger, fragmentation, whimsy, mystery and enduring connection are themes of the theater as they are in life. Subscribers to Rep Stage, the professional theater in residence at Howard Community College, will be privy to all of these complex emotional states and more as the company makes its way through the four plays of its 2003-2004 season.

Commencing the ensemble's 11th year before the public will be Sam Shepard's blisteringly intense 1983 play Fool for Love.

A full-length piece wound tightly into a single act, Fool for Love fits squarely into the unhappy, fragmented, often angry vision that makes this playwright such an irresistible force on the stage.

In their seedy motel room overlooking the Mojave Desert, Eddie and May are viscerally attracted to each other, both as half-siblings and as lovers locked in conflict.

Bathed in the arid landscape that surrounds them, the lovers speak in the gutsy, no-holds-barred rhythms of a playwright whose directness of speech and willingness to let the chips fall where they may almost force us to consider the uneasy ambiguities inherent in all relationships.

Directed by Rep Stage's artistic associate Jackson Phippin, Fool for Love plays at Smith Theatre from Sept. 26 through Oct. 12.

The mood of the season changes on a dime later in the fall when the company offers the Baltimore-Washington premiere of The Dazzle by Richard Greenberg.

Theater buffs will recall that Greenberg recently won a Tony Award for his Broadway play Take Me Out, a funny piece about life in a baseball locker room after everyone's favorite player comes out of the closet.

In The Dazzle, the playwright re-creates the story of the Collyer brothers, turn-of-the-century eccentrics who barricade themselves in their East Harlem mansion with 136 tons of junk, the better to avoid contact with the rest of mankind.

Into their lives comes a woman with a past who becomes their best hope for establishing some measure of connection with the outside world.

Kasi Campbell, Rep Stage's associate artistic director, will bring The Dazzle to Theatre Outback, relying on the talents of veteran actors Bill Largess and Bruce Nelson. The play runs from Oct. 31 through Nov. 23.

From Jan. 30 to Feb. 22, the company will present Eileen Atkins' Vita and Virginia, a drama that traces the unconventional real-life relationship shared by feminist writer Virginia Woolf and poet Vita Sackville-West.

"In one sense, it's a love story," says Mark Wernsman, director of the Rep Stage Box Office, "but I'd call it more of a study in friendship and connection."

Lisa A. Wilde makes her Rep Stage directorial debut.

Campbell also will direct Rep Stage's final offering, Tom Stoppard's Arcadia, a tour de force about family descendants of today trying to trace their 19th-century history - a past viewers see played out before their eyes.

As Derbyshire families then and now do their best to solve the riddles of history and life, Stoppard's surpassingly clever script offers nonstop commentaries on Newtonian physics, Fermat's theorem, chaos theory and other flights of human imagination.

Our modern popular culture may work overtime to diminish a life of the mind, but deliciously intellectual plays like this one help slow down that unfortunate process - at least for a while.

Arcadia plays from March 12 to March 28.

Rep Stage performs on the campus of Howard Community College, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia. The box office number for season subscriptions and individual tickets is 410-772-4900 and the Web site is www. howardcc.edu/repstage/. Performances are at 7 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. Performances are held in Smith Theatre or the college's Theatre Outback. Subscriptions are from $48 to $65. Individual tickets are $10 to $22. Student tickets are $10 each.

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