At A Red Orchid Theatre, Chicago
Intense acting propels Shepard’s dark tragic-comedy, Simpatico
Simpatico, Sam Shepard’s 1994 collection of deeply flawed characters caught in the aftermath of deceit, bribery, and blackmail involving fraud in the thoroughbred horse racing world in Kentucky. We meet Vinnie (Guy Van Swearingen), a recluse drunk unemployed (with a detective fetish) and living in obscurity in rural California. He summons his old friend Carter (Michael Shannon) in a emergency. As Carter arrives in Vinnie’s squalor-infested room, we find out that the two were partners 15 years ago in a scheme involving fixing horse races. After Carter eloped with Rosie (Vinnie’s wife), the gang broke up leaving Vinnie dependent on Carter for money. Vinnie has summoned Carter in order for him to confront Carter about the incriminating photos that he has that could bring Carter down. Vinnie wants Rosie back. Carter both physically and psychologically intimidates Vinnie.
When Vinnie tells Carter that he has shown the photos to his new girl Cecilia (Mierka Girten), the adventure begins. Carter and Cecilia have a unique fling as Carter gets her to approach Simms (Doug Vickers)- the original mark in the old bribery scheme. Meanwhile Vinnie travels to Kentucky to lure his ex, Rosie back into a relationship, meanwhile Carter is drinking too much and his guilt and worry about being exposed as a criminal begins to overcome him.
Simpatico is a darkly comic and full of eccentric characters each suffering from the scars of past encounters. Each have been shaped by the actions taken years ago; each still haunted by their choices. Sam Shepard’s characters are usually extreme, flawed and self-destructive. They sure are here. What makes Simpatico so powerful is the tremendous performances by the entire cast. From Guy Van Swearingen’s poor-soul persona to Mierka Girten’s semi-bimbo characteristics to Jennifer Engstrom’s heavy-drinking wife and mother to Doug Vickers’ weirdo-sexually perverted horse enthusiast- this cast exceeds in their emotionally engaging performances. Each were superb yet Michael Shannon’s work here was particularly spectacular. Shannon goes from a confident, commanding character to a worrisome, vulnerable person whose past causes him to drink as he anticipates his own destruction. Shannon’s comic timing and his emotionally physicality vividly depicts a man coming unhinged. Shannon is in award territory with his terrific performance.
Sure Simpatico has some plot problems and some things seem far fetched but the unique characters are so amazingly performed by this fabulous cast making Simpatico a major “must see” theatrical event. You’d be hard pressed to see a finer collection of performances than dado’s troupe of players present. Simpatico is one of the finest ensemble pieces seen on a Chicago stage in many a year! A Red Orchid Theatre once again proves that they are one of the finest Equity theatre companies in Chicago.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: July 11, 2013
For more info checkout the Simpatico page at theatreinchicago.com
At A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells, Chicago, IL, call 312-943-8722, www.aredorchidtheatre.org, tickets $30 – $35 – $40, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3pm, running time is 2 hours, 40 minutes with intermission, through August 25, 2013