Highly Recommended **** It might seem strange timing for a theater to open an Irish love story on the week-end of St.Patrick’s Day celebrations, but that is what Northlight Theatre in a co-production with Galway Arts Festival is presenting in Christian O’Reilly’s “Chappati”. It is surely a love story that many will recognize as much more as two individuals who have very little in their lives, except their animals, meet, get acquainted and find that there is still some hope and desire in their need for human companionship.
Directed by Artistic director, BJ Jones, “Chapatti” is 90 minutes of our watching two lonely , somewhat content people find that there is more to life than what they have been living. What makes this production so very special is the cast assembled ( this is a two character play) to bring this man (John Mahoney) and this woman ( Penny Slusher) to life. They are amazing actors who truly make you feel as if the fourth wall has been lifted and you are in fact peering into the lives of two lonely people. That is what theater is al about and under Jones’ solid direction in this very intimate theater, we do feel every emotion that they are feeling as they feel it.
The set ( Jack Magaw) is a clever addition in that the main section of the stage is both of their homes as they share the table in the center and the outside of the home(s) is a circular walkway taking us to other locations. There are times that one could be confused, but these actors and the solid direction cover the tracks. During the 90 minutes , we learn that Dan and his dog Chapatti take walks every day and that they are sure to visit the vet and the cemetery on a regular basis. Betty is a woman who owns a large number of cats ( 19 to be exact). Their lives are not even close to each other, but their paths do cross, first at the office of the Vet and secondly when Dan finds a dead cat and through the neighbor kids is told that the dead cat is more than likely Betty’s.
As it turns out, this is not the case, but the two hit it off in a friendly way as they find themselves enjoying the company and conversation with another human. There are some little stories that lead to a very strange dinner between the two and that unveil some secrets in their lives. I will not divulge these secrets as it would surely spoil the flow of a wonderful story that is poetic in nature and style. Everyone needs someone, even if they do not realize it- in this case, both of these people do realize the importance of another human despite the loving relationship they have with their pets. There are some moments of deep emotion and caring for each of these people and what they have endured in their lives, but in the end, we know that they can find the special something that we all need.
What makes this such a complete production is the acting, direction, set and of course the lighting(JR Lederle), costumes (Rachel Laritz), the sound and music composed just for the interludes and scene changes ( Denis Clohessy) and the props (Sarah Burnham along with Amanda Hermann). The great dialect (Brigid Duffy is the coach) allows us to feel the Dublin flavor and get into the heart of the characters and yet, be able to understand every word the actors say. Something that some theater companies forget to follow.
“Chapatti” will continue at Northlight Theatre located at 9501 Skokie boulevard in Skokie ( just a hp, skip and jump, south of Old Orchard Shopping Center) through April 13th with performances as follows:
Wednesdays 1 p.m. ( except 3/26) and 7:30 p.m. ( except 4/8)
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. ( except 3/23 and 4/13)
There are also some Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. performances, check with the box office on dates.
Tickets range from $25-$75 and are available at the box office, by phone at 847-673-6300 or online at www.northlight.org
There is plenty of free parking and lots of great dining spots in the area.