By Daniel Skora
There’s an old truism that says there are dog lovers and there are cat lovers, and never the twain shall meet. That might not always be the case, however, especially when the issues are much more complicated than simply the kind of pets you’d want to share your house with, as they are in the romantic comedy “Chapatti”, the current presentation of the Williamston Theatre.
Dan (John Seibert) is facing the rest of his life without the love of the woman he has known for thirty years. Her death has left him lonely and depressed, and even the companionship of his dog Chapatti (like the East Indian unleavened flatbread of the same name) seems insufficient to lift his spirits. He has decided to find a good home for his companion so he can move on to other things, those ‘other things’ forming a crucial part of the plot.
One day at the veterinarian’s, where Dan has gone to post a notice about Chapatti’s adoption, he has a chance encounter with a woman named Betty (Karen Sheridan). They run into each other at the door, in the process spilling Betty’s boxful of kittens onto the floor. In the confusion of trying to corral the kittens, each experiences a tug on the heartstrings. Dan is captivated by Betty’s infectious laugh; Betty judges him to be a kind and sensitive man, something which was lacking in her husband. From such inauspicious beginnings comes the heartwarming story of two people who find themselves in need of friendship and affection in their mature years. Life has been less than kind to both, and the present holds little promise of improvement. But fate has its ways of correcting past indiscretions, and eventually Dan and Betty will meet again.
Seibert and Sheridan are both excellently cast. Seibert plays both sides of Dan extremely well: the caring guy who goes out of his way to find the owner of a dead cat, yet carries inside a troubled heart that he shares with no one. Sheridan’s character is the heart and soul of the play. Betty is the more dynamic of the two: positive, earthy, coquettish. She is the play’s driver, and you can’t help but root for this lovely lady who will use everything at her disposal, including her feminine wiles, to get what she thinks is right. The play takes place in Dublin, and it’s her strong Irish brogue that that adds a lilting charm to the entire production.
“Chapatti” is directed by Lynn Lammers, who lets the strength of this play shine through the playwright’s (Christian O’Reilly) words and the two convincing performances of her cast. Pets on the set? Who needs them. Seibert has all the correct hand gestures as he imaginatively strokes his beloved Chapatti. And if you can’t visualize in your own mind those kittens rolling around the Williamston stage, perhaps imaginative theatre is not for you. Elaborate set? Two chairs will do just fine. One or both will transport you nicely into whatever setting the play needs you to be in. Props? Only the beam that stretches across the ceiling is necessary, and we can’t tell you what that’s for without spoiling your enjoyment of the show. Williamston has added seating to what’s normally the theatre’s staging area, making this production a theatre in the round.
“Chapatti” is a show that will warm your heart and renew your faith in humanity. It’s a fun and entertaining 90 minutes about two delightful people that you will enjoy immensely.
Set design for “Chapatti” is by Bartley H. Bauer. Costumes are by Melanie Schuessler Bond, with lighting by Genesis Garza. The show runs through June 26th. Tickets are available at the Williamston Theatre website at www.williamston.org, by phone at 1.517.655.7496 Tuesday through Friday, or in person at the Williamston box office. Williamston Theatre is located at 122 S. Putnam Road in downtown Williamston. Take I-96 west and get off at Exit 117.