Director: Barbara Guertin Producer: Frank Bartucca Sound Design: Robin Gabrielli Lighting Design: Whit Wales and David Anderson Photography: Frank Bartucca Stage Managers: Robbin Joyce, Ginny Sears, Amanda Hoegen
Cast: Cindy Bell…..Rosie Michael Carr…..Vinnie Allison Matteodo…..Kelly Ed Savage…..Simms Sean Stanco…..Carter Jourdan Spruill…..Cecilia
Horse racing and con men mix in a “cross between a modern film noir, Ibsenesque thriller and revenge drama.” Shady past crosses with present yearning in this dark comedy-drama which is “. . . Mr. Shepard writing at his distinctive, savage best.”
Three men, their lives entangled by a past horse racing swindle, are woven together again in the present in this intriguing tale of mendacity and greed. We are witnesses to a world, where men are “ . . . disconnected from any sense of purpose and community. They hustle and scheme without moral compass, trying to survive by making accommodations that are at best temporary, more often delusional.” There is Rosie, who divorced one of the men, married the second, and set up the third man in a blackmailing scheme which cost him career and family. And also Cecilia, who has a lifelong dream of going to the Kentucky Derby.
Theater Review: By Paul Kolas TELEGRAM & GAZETTE REVIEWER
“From Orchids To Octopi: An Evolutionary Love Story”
WHITINSVILLE — Sam Shepard’s “Simpatico” overflows with the stench of deception, moral depravity and good old-fashioned greed. Its characters circle around each other like boxers looking for a moment of opportunity to exploit an advantage, at times throwing verbal punches with premeditated savagery.
You could practically smell the boozy fumes of Vincent T. Webb’s (Michael Carr) bourbon permeating through the Singh Performance Center in Whitinsville on Wednesday evening, in 4th Wall Stage Company’s preview performance of “Simpatico,” prior to its official opening this weekend.
And what a preview it was, another scintillating demonstration that Frank Bartucca’s theater company continues to make good on its vow to bring challenging, unconventional theater to Central Massachusetts. And to do it justice once again, with director Barbara Guertin navigating a superb cast perceptively through the concentric, jabbing rhythms of Shepard’s shadowy world.
The play opens in Cucamonga, Calif., in a dumpy apartment strewn with dirty clothes and half empty whiskey bottles. Vinnie has asked an old friend, Carter (Sean Stanco), to fly out from Lexington, Ky., to help him out of a jam. He tells Carter that a woman, Cecilia (Jourdan Spruill), he met at a local watering hole got him thrown in jail for trespassing, invasion of privacy and harassment.
Or did she? And is Vinnie really a detective? What Shepard does is to keep you initially in the dark about what is really going on here, using his swirling dialogue to artfully, teasingly reveal the facts one step at a time. Fifteen years earlier, Carter and Vinnie made money at the race track by swapping out horses and betting on the long shots. When the racing commissioner, Simms (Ed Savage), uncovered the scam, he threatened to expose Vinnie and Carter, and revoke their racing permits.
With delectable perversity, Vinnie had his wife, Rosie (Cindy Bell), lure Simms into a compromising position, take photos of the two “in flagrante delicto,” and use them to keep Simms quiet. Vinnie kept the photos in a shoe box, and Carter ran off with Rosie to Lexington, where he became a horse breeder, living the high life with Rosie and their kids. Now the past has come back to haunt Carter, even though he’s been paying both Vinnie and Simms blackmail money to keep the past at bay.
How it all plays out is a serpentine reversal of fortune that the cast enacts with memorable distinctiveness. Carr’s Vinnie is a drunken, disheveled, self-pitying mess when we first see him, a real loser at the mercy — or so it seems — of Stanco’s well-groomed, impeccably attired Carter.
Carr plays Vinnie with cunning, strategic finesse, an ostensibly weak and helpless bum who lures Carter out of his supposedly superior vantage by irritating the hell out of him by not directly addressing his reasons for wanting him there. Carr’s mocking tone of voice at his friend’s higher social position is absolutely spot-on.
And Stanco plays off of it perfectly, with an underlying sense of unease that manifests itself in the form of impatience, derision and explosive temper. There’s raw energy in their volatile scenes together, right up to their last, electrifying encounter.
Spruill invests Cecilia with exquisitely gentrified grace, a mint julep in high heels who wends her way through the male traffic with unerring poise and style. When Cecilia approaches Simms with bribe money late in the play, you can understand why he is so entranced by her, telling her repeatedly how stunning she is. Savage somehow makes Simms’ obsessive flattery both oddly charming and a bit creepy, while Spruill deflects it with feathery politeness.
Bell is marvelous in her smaller role as Rosie, playing her with the sort of flaunting, flamboyant and cynical posture that Gloria Swanson’s Norma Desmond would envy. Allison Matteodo enacts Rosie’s maid, Kelly, with a nice touch of protective perplexity. It all adds up to a terrific evening with fascinating social misfits.