Analyzing one of Sam Shepard's plays can be an arduous task for even the most gifted scholar. Such a challenge has at times been welcomed, but seldom completed satisfactorily. The writings, the commentaries of various critics and numerous dramatists, speak loudly and repeatedly of the frustration in their attempts to name a central theme, to identify some congruency of idea or presentation, to unearth some logic and rationale in characterization, to find evidence of some wholeness in what these plays are saying.
Shepard has written a one-act play called Action. It is a sterling success in that it very craftily conjures up questions, thoughts, and feelings about this whole notion of activity - its place, its presence (or lack of), its handling by characters in staged theater. It is less than successful in that it clouds and diminishes the very images and effects it aims to create by virtue of its tendency to go nowhere. In Action, the audience views/experiences two men and two women responding to events and situations people deal with in everyday life. Some of this activity is trite, almost stale; some of it is anything but. Shepard's familiar use of image, momentum, nowness, shock and disconnectedness are all present and very well accounted for.
There is a great deal of support for Shepard and his playwrighting prowess in an article by Gerry McCarthy: "Acting It Out: Sam Shepard's Action." Most of what McCarthy has to say here, most of what he is explaining, appears to be thought through conscientiously and presented in an acceptable, scholarly fashion. There are instances, however, where he takes certain liberties and his discussion assumes a position which leaves him open to much debate. He has a great deal to say about the relationship between the actor and the playwright:
He examines the experience he represents through actual problems encountered by the actor as he confronts his audience without the security ...