Meet the stars of New Rep's 'Fool For Love'

Lenny Megliola

So, what does the rising young actor Timothy John Smith do in his spare time?

"I'm a poker player. I'm a member of the Poker Player Alliance of America. That's how I make most of my income. But I wouldn't recommend it."

Here's what he WOULD recommend to actors, more sure thing than a gamble: A Sam Shepard play.

"This is one of the first plays that I've read and loved immediately," says the 34-year-old Smith, cast in the powerful role of Eddie in Shepard's "Fool For Love" opening at the New Rep Theatre's black box space this weekend in Watertown.

His lead co-star, Stacy Fischer, concurs. "I've known about this play since my freshman year in high school," says Fischer. "I used it as a monologue for acting class and used it for most of my college auditions."

Fischer, in her early 30s, was in another play when she found out New Rep would be doing "Fool For Love."

"I contacted them and said I'd really love to read for it." She plays May, who is stalked by Eddie.

It is a most atypical love story, cruel and unusual in some ways, but almost never lacking in physical love.

"They're electric together," says Fischer. "There's a ton of passion. But Eddie has a wandering spirit." The couple had dated; then Eddie walks out. "Fifteen years later he finds her, then he leaves," says Fischer.

But he just can't stay away. In the end, they confront a shocking revelation. These lips are sealed. It'll floor you though.

"Eddie's not a bad guy," says Smith. "He's got a sense of isolation. His main thing is how much he loves her. Everything he does to other people is because of his love for her.

"They're not alike, but they share a melancholy."

Fischer calls the play "pretty raw."

"I come away from rehearsals and, oh, my body is so sore," she says. "It's very physical. May's a wildcat. There's a lot of anger and absolute love.

"She says to Eddie, 'I get sick every time you come around, and every time you leave."'

When Smith was growing up in Oakham in central Massachusetts, acting didn't register one iota in his plans. He played sports and hunted and fished. "I grew up in a log cabin in the woods."

At one point, he gave pre-med some thought. "I started theater kind of late. I didn't think it was a viable life for me. But it has been."

He'd done some light stage work in musicals. One thing led to another. He wound up at the esteemed Trinity Repertory Company in Providence.

"I didn't do a straight show until I got there."

He never looked back. Where once he thought of himself as "an aimless good-for-nothing," now he saw some direction on his life.

When "Fool For Love" opens, "May's trying to back away from Eddie and be her own person in a world Eddie's not in," says Fischer. It ain't that simple. Eddie tracks her down in a crummy motel on the fringe of the Mojave Desert.

If Smith sort of wandered into the profession, Fischer first focused on theater in the seventh grade.

"It was the first year you could take electives. I chose theater. First time I set foot on stage I said, 'this is it.' It's where I want to be. I had no interest in film or TV." Fischer enrolled at Emerson College in Boston. Being a military brat - her father was in the Air Force - Fischer moved around a lot. The family lived on Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford for two years.

Fischer gave the New York scene the old college try but "I found out I didn't like New York City at all. I always loved Boston. I thought it'd be wonderful if I could make a career here."

Since 2000 she has, having appeared at the Lyric Stage, the Publick, Huntington Theatre, the Gloucester Stage Co. and SpeakEasy. She's already been cast in New Rep's next main stage production, Steve Martin's "Picasso At The Lapine Agile."

Before Trinity Rep, Smith attended St. Anselm College. "I didn't really need to go to college. What I took away from it was an ability to analyze arguments, my own and other people's arguments." That was especially beneficial to an actor. "I do a lot of Shakespeare where you can really explore," he says.

Smith will be seen next in SpeakEasy's "Jerry Springer, the Opera."

"Fool For Love" is directed by Bridget Kathleen O'Leary, a longtime Shepard devotee. "He has an animalistic quality that excites me." she says. "This play is not a downer at all. It's about two people so connected, they can't live without each other. There is always something that brings them back together."

O'Leary raves about her leads. "When Tim walks into a room he has that cowboy thing about him. He has testosterone dripping off him. He's so confident that he will achieve what he sets out to do."

As for Fischer's May, O'Leary says, "she has this intensity that she brings to the role. It gets into her body. It's fascinating to watch her absorb the material. She's so comfortable with silence and with stillness.

"May hasn't lived an easy life. It's all about this man."

And so it goes.

"Fool For Love" runs March 14 to April 5 at the New Repertory Theatre, Arsenal Center for the Arts, Mosesian Theater, 321 Arsenal St., Watertown. Tickets: $25, available at www.newrep.org or 617-923-8487.