Story: May ekes out an existence as a cook at a nameless place in a tiny town on the Mojave Desert. Her home is a drab motel room with a bed, a table, a couple of chairs and drinking glasses stored in the bathroom. Her life is dreary but made drastic as well by the unwelcome arrival of her former lover, Eddie.

Eddie is hauling some horses in a rig behind his truck, which he says he’s driven more than 2,000 miles to see May. Instead of happiness, May is filled with trepidation to get involved with Eddie again, since they quickly descend into the bickering, miserable couple they once were.

May informs Eddie that she has a new life, and that her date Martin is en route to take her to the movies. Eddie is irritated about Martin and also unwilling to leave May after traveling so far. Observing the tension between Eddie and May is an old man, seated in the corner of the room, swilling booze and offering commentary about his role in the lives of each of them and their mothers. They may not hear him or see him, although Eddie seems to upon occasion, but his personality most definitely has branded the two younger folks forever.

Highlights: Playwright Sam Shepard mined his own turbulent childhood in carving out a series of plays that presented the rotting core of a diseased family in such works as Buried Child, Curse of the Starving Class, True West, A Lie of the Mind and Fool for Love, each written between 1976 and 1985. All of those works are provocative and focus on bizarre and hellish behavior that passes for normalcy in their characters.

Fool for Love follows that prescription in its one act and 60 minutes of disturbed drama. Tessaract Theatre Company’s current production at the Regional Arts Commission offers a satisfying and compelling probe of Shepard’s perverse landscape with fine contributions from director Taylor Gruenloh and a quartet of gifted performers.

Other Info: Tessaract precedes its presentations with a 10-minute play before each performance. The one presently mounted, Cares, is a two-character study by Chad Runyon that begins innocently with an unemployed husband telling his wife to “be careful” as she leaves for her job.

Suddenly, she turns and reveals to him that she resents the implication of fear and danger inherent in his message. He doesn’t understand her anger, and before long the two of them are sliding down a precipitous slope of bruised feelings and empty empathy. Alex Hylton and Sydney Daniels play the sparring young pair under the direction of Dan Ludwig.

The main portion of the evening, Shepard’s searing character study, is given a fine reading by Suki Peters, Jared Sanz-Agero, Paul Devine and Reginald Pierre on the sparse set. Peters and Sanz-Agero expertly take turns stripping away shreds of dignity from each other, although Sanz-Agero’s Eddie seems long ago to have bade farewell to any kind of civility.

Devine is amusing as the omnipresent Old Man who in the course of the one-act drama is shown to be a most scurrilous and reprehensible sort, all the worse because he seems too self-absorbed to understand the misery and ruin he has left behind. Devine’s rage at the work’s climax is amazing in its self-pity as much as terrifying in its muffled explosion.

Pierre offers a revealing contrast to the others as the ‘normal’ Martin, a regular guy who has no idea about May’s sordid past, who becomes transfixed by the horrible situation described to him by Eddie in painstakingly shocking detail.

Characters come and go behind the set’s wobbly doors for what seems like inordinate amounts of time throughout the story, ostensibly to allow Shepard to focus on dialogue between on-stage characters. Be that as it may, Tessaract’s version of Fool for Love is an engaging and dutiful rendering of the destructive types who populate many of the playwright’s most harrowing and unsettling tales.

Play: Fool for Love

Group: Tessaract Theatre Company

Venue: Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Blvd.

Dates: April 25, 26, 27, 28

Tickets: Free admission

Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.