SIMPATICO (McCarter Theatre Center): A Red Orchid Theatre’s production comes to Princeton

The McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, NJ, invited A Red Orchid Theatre of Chicago to bring their acclaimed 2013 production of Sam Shepard’s play SIMPATICO to their Berlind Theatre, with several members of the original Chicago cast.

What a cast it is! IT includes Michael Shannon, a founding member of the ensemble has recently been honored with a Tony nomination, and Drama Desk and Outer Circle Critics Awards for his work in Long Day’s Journey into Night in New York. As Carter, Mr. Shannon delivered an outstanding performance. No less accomplished were the fine actors Guy Van Swearingen as Vinnie, Mierka Girten as Cecilia, John Judd as Sims, and Kristin Engstrom as Rosie. Their stage presences were riveting. Kristin E. Ellis made the most of her small role as Kelly. We see great acting by accomplished actors in a difficult play.

By 1994, when he wrote this play, Sam Shepard  (1943-2017) was a celebrated actor and playwright who won numerous awards. SIMPATICO can be considered to be one of Shepard’s mature works.


A Red Orchid Theatre’s SIMPATICO at McCarter. Jennifer Engstrom and Guy Van Swearingen. Photo by Richard Termine.
A Red Orchid Theatre’s SIMPATICO at McCarter. Jennifer Engstrom and Guy Van Swearingen. Photo by Richard Termine.

As a drama, SIMPATICO is a difficult work for actors and audience alike. Divided into several scenes, there are long monologues and rapid-fire dialogues which often run around in drawn-out, repetitious circles, with infuriating lame jokes and puns, challenging the most patient member of the audience.

The play describes how fifteen years in the past a crime was committed in which three characters were involved in a sordid plot to destroy one man. Odd leaps of logic are joined by erratic characterizations which only add to the chaotic plot twists. The audience occasionally laughed at the most grisly, skin-crawling moments. There were many such moments.

A 1999 film, Simpatico, starring Nick Nolte, Jeff Bridges, Sharon Stone and Albert Finney was adapted from the play and directed by Matthew Warchus. With a running time of 106 minutes, the film is considerably shorter in duration from the play, which runs here at 2-1/2 hours with one intermission.

[McCarter Theatre, Princeton, NJ] September 8-October 15, 2017;

For one Thursday during each of their plays, the McCarter Theatre Center hosts a fabulous event they call Pride Night. The Pride Night for their latest play, Simpatico, was held September 21. The event is held in a lovely venue in the Matthews Theatre, catered by a cadre of local establishments, with a bar for beer, wine and soda, and a raffle where several fine prizes are handed out. This night the food was provided by Mediterra, a local restaurant in Princeton. The food was fabulous. Several waitpersons walked among us with platters of delicious hot and cold appetizers. Three large tables also had foods and desserts. The McCarter deserves a round of applause for hosting these events celebrating the LGBT community.  

Next at the McCarter will be A Night with Janis Joplin, October 10-29, 2017.


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