Review: Sam Shepard’s ‘Simpatico,’ Cut Loose and Roaming Wild

Figuratively speaking, that’s everybody’s dirty laundry piling up. “Simpatico” is about how easy it is to get lost in the messes we make of our lives, especially when we think we’re in control. Featuring blissfully idiosyncratic performances by a cast that also includes Guy Van Swearingen, Mierka Girten and Jennifer Engstrom, the Red Orchid “Simpatico” artfully creates the impression that it is letting chaos reign.



Guy Van Swearingen and Michael Shannon in A Red Orchid Theater’s revival of Sam Shepard’s play, at the McCarter Theater Center.

By A RED ORCHID THEATER on Publish Date September 17, 2017.


The revival belongs to a distinguished (but roguish) family of Shepard classics that have been born again in Chicago, including two definitive interpretations from the Steppenwolf Theater: its 1982 “True West,” starring John Malkovich and Gary Sinise, and a “Buried Child,” directed by Mr. Sinise, that landed on Broadway in 1996.

These were red-blooded, nose-bloodying shows that lived up to Carl Sandburg’s characterization of Chicago as “Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action.” They made the most of the Shepard tradition of having actors literally tear down the house and left you feeling both wiped out and exhilarated.

If Dado’s “Simpatico” doesn’t provide an equivalent catharsis, it’s only because Shepard’s elaborately mapped tale of double-crossing and horse-racing will never hang together as a consistent story. (When a character, wistfully recalling movies like “The Maltese Falcon” and “Double Indemnity,” asks, “Who decided to do away with plot?,” you feel like answering, “You did, Sam, because you knew that plots were lies.”) Its structural illogic can nag at you whenever it gives you a chance to breathe and reflect.

Fortunately, moments of contemplation are rarely afforded by a high-adrenaline staging that turns all-American angst into high and lowdown comedy. The best-known earlier incarnations of “Simpatico” made the mistake of striving for a shadowy Raymond Chandler-esque sex appeal, enhanced by the use of high-gloss stars. (Ed Harris, Marcia Gay Harden and Beverly…

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