note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Carl A. Rossi
Carter Ö Angelo Athanasopoulos
Vinnie Ö Joe OíConnor
Cecilia Ö Susan Gross
Simms Ö Phil Thompson
Kelly Ö Molly Kimmerling
Rosie Ö Lisa Caron Driscoll
I attended one of the final performances of Sam Shepardís SIMPATICO at the Devanaughn Theatre and couldnít keep up with either play or production. Iíve never read any of Mr. Shepardís scripts and had previously seen only one of them, onstage --- the haunting FOOL FOR LOVE at the Industrial Stage, several seasons ago --- from what Iíve heard, I gather Mr. Shepard is the poet of the Great American Dead End where rural misery and violence interbreed; SIMPATICO, one of his later plays, is set in the world of horse-racing where two childhood friends who had made a living by rigging the races now criss-cross each other with a box of pornographic negatives once used to blackmail a commissioner who was on to them. FOOL FOR LOVE was a mournful cry from the heart; SIMPATICO began and ended in full throttle and played like a first draft with Mr. Shepard and his characters in two separate corners and myself in a third. It made for a lonely evening, all around.
A textured ensemble infused with a slow-burning drollness might have worked wonders; instead, Jeannie-Marie Brown had her actors galloping through their lines at breakneck speed, reducing the production to rat-a-tat-tat. The actors are to be commended for their crack timing, all around, but only Susan Gross as the wary-gullible girlfriend and Phil Thompson as the stung commissioner punched their readings into characterizations. I had seen Mr. Thompson in bits and pieces and thought him striking but wooden; he has since improved and his commissioner was a smooth study of contrasts: a mask both handsome and a leering parody of handsomeness; a still-strapping physique that swooped in and out of seduction or threat; a low-key declamation that didnít miss a beat. The role may have helped Mr. Thompson come into focus but Mr. Thompson, in turn, balanced the othersí barnstorming with his ominous chamber-music.