Reviving Film Noir through Theatre in ‘Simpatico’

Director David Zayas Jr. makes his off-Broadway debut with Sam Shepard’s “Simpatico,” which has returned to the stage for a limited engagement at the Chain Theatre. The 1994 play touches on themes of friendship, loyalty, and betrayal, and is accompanied by a film noir-style backdrop. The remarkable cast in the Chain Theatre’s current production brings layers of comedy and intense drama to the piece.

Left to Right: Monica Park, Pete Mattaliano, Christina Elise Perry, Kirk Gostkowski, Elizabeth Bays, and Brandon Hughes. Photo by David Zayas Jr.

The opening scene introduces the audience to a friendship of more than 20 years between Carter (played by Kirk Gostkowski) and Vinnie (played by Brandon Hughes). Right off the bat, it becomes clear that the power dynamics between the two are complicated; Vinnie is a drunk, and Carter is a successful horse racer. The two had scammed horse racers together 20 years ago, and they blackmailed an official to avoid being punished. Now, Carter spends a good chunk of his wealth and energy attempting to prevent Vinnie from bringing forth the blackmail, as Vinnie has nothing to lose. After Vinnie tricks Carter into coming to visit him, Vinnie sneaks off to Carter’s home and makes a pass at Carter’s wife, Rosie (Christina Elise Perry). Carter is left drowning in the anxieties of his life crashing down after being exposed.

Gostkowski plays a stern businessman with an unblemished reputation, and a perfect wife on the line. As a performer, he nails a downward spiral into madness, as Carter is filled with doom, knowing that he can no longer use his power to stop Vinnie. Gostkowski takes the role to an extreme level physically, leaving the character rolling around with emotional turmoil by the end of the play. Hughes contrasts his co-star’s performance by attacking the role of Vinnie with a calculated and manipulative understanding. Vinnie borders the lines of insanity and charism, constantly keeping the audience on the edge of their seats.

As an ensemble, the entire cast is filled with talent. Elizabeth Bays as Cecilia and Pete Mattaliano as Simms have an unexpected chemistry, and bring an exuberant humor to the story. Christina Elise Perry, as Rosie, plays a bold femme fatale, which is the cherry on top of the film noir format of the play. Despite the male characters in the play holding the power in the blackmail scandal, Bays and Elise Perry make it clear that the men’s intentions lie in proving themselves to the women. 

As the play flips and flops between small towns, the actors navigate between different sets, which all remain on the stage throughout the production. However, the play is cleverly lit to focus the audience’s attention on the scenery being used in the relative scene. Each bit of scenery on stage helps the audience to remember the grand scheme behind each moment despite the fast-moving plot. As each piece of scenery (Vinnie’s flat, Simm’s office, and Rosie and Carter/Cecilia’s house) is in sight, it is also in the front of Carter’s mind, as he tries to untangle the mess that has now bled into every aspect of his life. 

Audiences can see this thrilling production of Sheppard’s play, “Simpatico,” at the Chain Theatre until June 29th. Get tickets online HERE.

Check out my other reviews HERE.

Katrina Carlyle
Katrina Carlyle

Katrina Carlyle is currently enrolled as a junior at Hunter College, where she is majoring in Theatre. Hailing from Toronto, Canada, she is interested in all things art and media, which is what drew her to NYC. She is pursuing acting, but tries to dip her toes in other creative areas when she can. Katrina is a radio broadcaster at Hunter College’s radio station, WHCS, and is directing an original play for Hunter’s undergraduate play festival. She values community and hopes to build a community through the arts anywhere she can. Additionally, she is a member of Beauty News NYC's theatre writing program for New York City college students, Student Scene.