(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/26; via Pam Green.)
PRINCETON, N.J. — It’s hard to imagine a more exuberant wake for Sam Shepard than the party being thrown — and I mean thrown, like a beer bottle in a bar fight — at the McCarter Theater Center here. That’s where A Red Orchid Theater’s revival of his strange “Simpatico” is running — and jumping, stumbling, falling down drunk, writhing on the floor and gleefully reminding us of the fierce and anarchic humor of Shepard, who died in July.
Though Shepard is, in my book, a great American playwright, “Simpatico,” first staged at the Public Theater in New York in 1995, is not a great play. On the page, at least, it finds its author awkwardly trying to shoehorn his fabled sense of a melting American identity into the intricate plots and counterplots of the genre known as noir.
But as lyrical as Shepard could be as a prose writer, he is best experienced not on the page but the stage, where the raw physicality of his brand of theater can be given space to roam wild. That’s the space so jubilantly occupied by this production out of Chicago, directed by Dado and starring the off-center film star Michael Shannon in expertly demented form.