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Final Bow: Nina Arianda Leaves Lassos and Safe Words Behind as Fool for Love Closes

In Sam Shephard's provocative play, Arianda and Sam Rockwell play lovers with a complicated past.

For the past few months, Nina Arianda (Tony winner for David Ives' sadomasochistic Venus in Fur) and Sam Rockwell (acclaimed film actor known for films like Duncan Jones' Moon) have spent their evenings trapped in a shabby hotel room on the edge of the Mojave Desert. Though May and Eddie, the lovers at the center of Sam Shephard's Fool for Love, aren't physically imprisoned, night after night they find themselves unable to untangle the knot — occasionally as literal as a lasso around May's shoulders — that holds them together.

Arianda and Rockwell have found themselves in this predicament before (the production first ran at Williamstown Theatre Festival last summer), but the time has finally come for them to move on. As Fool for Love ends performances at Manhattan Theatre Club's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on December 13, Arianda is getting ready to finally close that hotel-room door.

Nina Arianda as May in Fool for Love.
(© Joan Marcus)

1. What is your favorite line that you deliver?

That's a hard question… I like a lot of them…but I guess it's OK if I just say one of them: "I'll believe the truth, it's less confusing."

2. Everyone loves inside jokes. What is the best one from your show?

I'll say this, we have a safe word in the show. And I can't say that I've ever done a show that we have a safe word. I can't tell you what the safe word is because it wouldn't be safe.

3. Every show experiences technical difficulties. What was the worst technical difficulty experienced during your show and how was it handled?

The door wouldn't close, so anybody who had to open the door had to hold it for it to be shut. If the door needed to be closed, you had to physically hold it closed. It felt like an eternity, but it was only for one show.

4. What was the most "interesting" present someone gave you at the stage door?

I got a tin of little German shortbread Christmas cookies. And I thought it was very sweet. The person who gave them to me knew that I used to live in Germany, so that was very thoughtful.

5. Who is the coolest person who came to see your show? (You can't say family!)

Well, what I had heard was that Common came to see the show. That's pretty cool…and Angela Lansbury came…It was very cool for me because I'd never had the honor of actually meeting her.

A moment from Fool for Love's opening-night curtain call: Gordon Joseph Weiss, Sam Rockwell, Nina Arianda, and Tom Pelphrey.
(© David Gordon)

6. How does it feel to be lassoed on a nightly basis?

I think it's just such a unique extension of how these two people relate to each other. It's such a specific physical vocabulary that is one of those absolute pleasures of doing this production and living in their world.

7. What's the most memorable interaction you've had with Sam Shepard?

I'm so starstruck every time that I am around him…I passed out in my head every like five minutes…But one of the coolest moments I had with him, there's a moment before I kiss Sam [Rockwell] that I take his hat off and I put it down on the stool. And I had been putting it down the wrong way and [Sam Shepard] corrected me and said that you always have to keep the brim up because it's bad luck for cowboys if you put it down the other way. And it's not even written in the play. It's just another really wonderful detail that I wouldn't have known otherwise.

8. What's the most interesting thing you've learned about Sam Rockwell?

I find it to be so wonderful to work with somebody who gives a sh*t as much as Sam does — and not only cares but also celebrates what he does. It becomes a pleasure doing a play that can be slightly unpleasant at times when you do it with somebody who you know is with you one hundred percent. He [also] does a hell of a cockney accent…And I would now call him a semiprofessional lassoer.

9. May from Fool for Love and Vanda from Venus in Fur have sort of opposite personalities. Whom do you personally relate to more?

They are opposites. And I think that's why I relate to both of them. I don't think that anybody is one thing, especially if your job is to have empathy toward all different kinds of people. You find a little bit of each person in yourself…I mean, that's the beauty about these characters. I kind of celebrate characters that aren't one thing. Because I think it's sad when people try to make somebody one thing.

10. What do you think happens to May at the end of the play?

I can't answer that because I respect everyone's opinion on that. I know what I think but I want everyone to leave with their own opinion. I don't want to change that for anybody.

Sam Rockwell and Nina Arianda embrace in an scene from Sam Shepard's Fool for Love on Broadway.
(© Joan Marcus)
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