BWW Review: SIMPATICO at McCarter Rocks

BWW Review: SIMPATICO at McCarter Rocks

SIMPATICO, A Red Orchid Theatre production, now on stage at McCarter Theatre Center, comes to Princeton just three months after its playwright, Sam Shepard died. But from the start, even in the dark and before the electric Michael Shannon speaks his first lines, the air is charged with the spirit of the prolific playwright. Something unexpected is going to happen. As McCarter artistic director Emily Mann warns the audience in the program, it will be a "wild ride."

It's an exhilarating ride, the kind of synergistic creative collaboration that is exquisite even if it terrifies, as it bravely does, exploring the depth to which human desire and fear and suffering can take us.

What happened in the past, exactly, and what pulls the characters of Carter (Michael Shannon) and Vinnie (Guy Van Swearingen) together in the story that unfolds in SIMPATICO is mysterious at times, as Shepard often is, but the burden of past choices-like the pedigree of a Thoroughbred-is clear.

Director Dado, an ensemble member of A Red Orchid Theatre as well as a visual artist, meets Shepard head-on, willing to flip power and expectations in the taut relationship between Carter and Vinnie, and find the romantic wit and poetry in scenes between Cecilia and Simms, played with enjoyable whimsy by Mierka Girten and John Judd.

Shepard is not the easiest playwright to watch-largely because he makes the audience think and, at times, squirm, in recognition of the human heartache we are capable of creating. This production goes to every edge, suspending the audience over the abyss of our fears, and is utterly, and contagiously, alive.

SIMPATICO includes A Red Orchid Theatre co-founder Michael Shannon (Carter), co-founder (and full-time Chicago firefighter) Guy Van Swearingen (Vinnie), with A Red Orchid Theatre ensemble members Mierka Girten (Cecilia) and Jennifer Engstrom (Rosie). Kristen Ellis (Rosie) and John Judd (Sims), round out the cast. The design team features frequent A Red Orchid Theatre collaborators Grant Sabain (set design), Christine Pascual (costume design), Mike Durst (sound design) and Joe Court (sound design). Christa van Baale is the production stage manager.

Ticket Information and Performance Schedule
Performances for Simpatico run September 8 through October 15 in the Berlind Theatre. Single tickets range from $25 - $97.50 and are on sale now online at, by phone at 609.258.2787, or in person at the McCarter Theatre Ticket Office, located at 91 University Place in Princeton.

Photo credit: Richard Termine

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