Playing it for laughs

Stage West maintains a comic sensibility in Simpatico

Jim Covault contributes a lot to the intensity with which I became involved in Simpatico for another, perhaps inadvertent reason: I spent the first act alternately digging and disdaining his acting style. Actors, like most other artists, usually hate the word "style," because it's a label imposed from outside. But the interaction of hands, voice, eyes, mouth, and temperament combine so uniquely in some actors that we're forced to contemplate the nature of acting itself. Their style makes us decide what we want from a performance--authenticity or expression. They are not always companions.

In the end, if an actor has articulated the playwright's vision effectively, he will be excused for all manner of eccentricities. Covault wasn't totally mannered, but there were elements of affectation, especially in his moments of anger. This often rises to the surface when an actor is defending himself against an emotion. He looks like a taller, skinnier Donald Pleasance, and talks with nasal jabs of his droll voice. And yet, by the play's climax, he had underplayed a showboat role and convinced me that the hypocritical Carter was a truer scumbag than Vinnie, because Carter refused to recognize his own cruel streak. Simpatico feeds hungrily on the wild oats sewn by disreputable men, fueling up to trot around the stage and display its mangy hide with a regal bearing.

Simpatico runs through April 26. Call (817)

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