Sam Shepherd's 'Sympatico' Makes For An Entertaining Evening

Clever script and terrific performances, writes Penny Flood

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At a time when new writing has become a bit of a cause celebre, it's refreshing to have a chance to see something with a track record which is what we've got a The Tabard with Sam Shepherd's Sympatico.

When it opened in New York in 1994 it was very well received but it fared rather less well at the hands of the critics when it was made into a movie in 1999. So Ford Transit, the production company behind the version at the Tabard, have taken on a big challenge, and they don't make a bad fist of it.

Set in the world of horse racing, it's the story of Carter, Rosie and Vinnie who 20 years ago pulled off a lucrative scam which included blackmail. Carter and Rosie have done very well out of it but now it's come back to bite them.

Vinnie has become a down and out drunk, harbouring more than one grudge, and he's threatening to expose them if he doesn't get a bit more out of it. He says he's got the negatives of the blackmail pictures so he's calling all the shots. It's billed as a black comedy and that's where this production goes astray because, although it's very dark, the comedy is all but missing. There are plenty of opportunities but the timing isn't there which makes the first act plod and the running gag about his Buick gets a bit lost.

It picks up in the second act as more characters are brought in and the plot develops. Stephen Chance as the increasingly unhinged Vinnie gives a terrific performance as does Janet Kumar as his girlfriend Cecelia. Thinking she'll help Vinnie, Cecelia runs an errand for Carter which moves the plot along but, unenlightened as to what's really happening, she remains in a state of charming befuddlement. Happily she gets a new dress out of it.

It's a clever script with lots of twists and turn as things don't go according to plan and the hunter becomes the hunted, the blackmailer becomes the blackmailed, and the truth is distorted at every opportunity, with an undertow of menace to keep up the tension right until the end.

At nearly three hours it's a tad overlong, and while it's not perfect, it's not bad either and it is entertaining.

Runs 2-26 September
Tuesday – Saturday 7.30pm
Matinee at 3pm on Saturday 19th September
Running Time: Approximately 2 Hours 30 minutes including interval

Book tickets online
Telephone: 0208 995 6035

£17 (£15 concessions)

September 10, 2015