Chapatti, Reviewed

A dark, Irish Must Love Dogs.

If the premise sounds like a squishy Diane Keaton movie that your grandma's been waiting for—it is.

Betty is a cat lady. Dan is a dog man. They meet in a scheme to hide a dead cat that's been hit by a car in Corrib Theatre's newest play.

Chapatti, which takes its title from the name of Dan's mutt, isn't edgy. But this quiet portrait of loneliness, getting old and the role of pets in our lives is stunning and honest.

In what feels like two separate solo shows, Betty (Jacklyn Maddux) and Dan (Allen Nause) slowly unfold their lives, speaking to the audience in perfect Irish accents. Narrating every emotion and even physical actions, their direct addresses let us in on each character's secrets.

On one side of the thrust stage is Dan, alone in his dark and empty bedroom with only a squeaky twin bed, a piano bench and his dog for company. He's still mourning the death of his lover of 20 years and makes extensive plans to kill himself and join her in the afterlife. Finding a suitable home for Chapatti keeps Dan from following through, though.

Nause—who served as Artists Repertory Theatre's artistic director for 25 years—gives a haunting performance with sincere gestures that make Chapatti believable, even though we never see the titular pet, and he captures suicidal distress with facial tics and real tears.

Dan's counterpart, Betty, is a cat lady in every way. On the other half of the stage, in a bright living room decorated with daffodils, she details the loveless marriage that ended in divorce and left her friendless. Betty wears oversized sweaters, doesn't talk to many men and sings to her cats. But unlike Dan, she wants more out of life.

Maddux draws surprising intrigue from her character, playing a wide-eyed Betty whose slouching gait turns into a proud glide when her friendship with Dan blooms. In the audience, you feel like her best friend as she spills nervous excitement like a giddy teenager.

Because this is a quiet Irish play, it mines dead pets and suicide plans for plot points. But because it's a quiet Irish play with Nause and Maddox as the leads, it can build even sexual tension out of dead pets, suicide plans and surprisingly steamy cups of tea.

see it: Chapatti is at CoHo Theater, 2257 NW Raleigh St., corribtheatre.org. 7:30 pm Thursday-Saturday and 2 pm Sunday, through March 13. $25.

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