Theater Review: 'Chapatti'

By: 
Ben Miles
Mark Bramhall and Annabella Price in "Chapatti"

Christian O'Reilly's play "Chapatti" is full of heartfelt Irish charm. Though it had its west coast premiere at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach in the fall of 2015, “Chapatti” is now being restaged at the lovely Laguna Playhouse – with the same two delightful actors, but under the nuanced direction of David Ellenstein (who's using the template established under the original direction of Judith Ivey at North Coast Rep).

First, there’s Marty Burnett’s work-a-day scenic design, which conveys the experience of two separate living spaces that easily merge into one another while also standing in as a graveyard every now and again. Also, there’s the vivid costuming of Eliza Benzoni adding to the characters’ back life and at times perking up the eyes balls of audience members, the focused and directive lighting design of Matt Novotny, as well as the crisp sound design of Melanie Chen. These skilled craftspeople literally set the stage for O’Reilly’s sweet, sorrowful script.

Then there are the actors. Mark Bramhall and Annabella Price play Dan and Betty with emotional precision and believable yet decipherable Dublin dialects. Dan is a lovelorn man with a dog named Chapatti, a terrier named after the Indian flatbread (whom we never see, but believe is there because of the actor’s skilled efforts). Betty is a lonely cat woman (she lovingly cares for 19 felines, which also are not seen).

And then there is O’Reilly’s soulful script. It’s gentle, genial and oh so humane. Though the play’s exposition is skillfully delivered and full of comedic cheer, it also is an ode to loneliness and the healing power of love. It allows us to witness characters laughing until they cry, and crying until they laugh, and as is said by Dan to feel “like an iceberg melting in a warm sea.”

Not only is “Chapatti” an exquisitely crafted play, it is also a lesson in living. As Betty says to Dan, “Life’s not about being remembered. It’s about love.” On top of that, this Laguna Playhouse production is in itself a master class in the art of theater. With consummate stagecraft, top-tier acting and an emotionally resonate script, “Chapatti” is a timely treat for theatergoers.

“Chapatti” continues at the Laguna Playhouse through Jan. 29. Evening performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are Thursdays and Saturdays at 2 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m. (There’s an additional 5:30 p.m. performance on Sunday, Jan. 22.) The Laguna Playhouse is located at 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. For reservations call (949) 497-2787. For online ticketing and further details visit www.lagunaplayhouse.com.

ben@beachcomber.news

 

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