Sometimes even the stubbornly unsentimental can be suckers for sentimentality. This is on display in Chapatti, Christian O’Reilly’s one-act play having its West Coast premiere at the North Coast Rep. The ingredients for soupiness are there: two lonely people finding love again, later in life; a faithful little terrier named Chapatti that we don’t see (there’s no dog on stage) but don’t have to; an old woman’s loving cat—her reason to live—which is run over by a car.
But Chapatti (the play, not the terrier), a world-premiere co-production last year between Ireland’s Galway Arts Festival and the Northlight Theatre in Chicago, transcends soap opera. So durable and downright human are its two characters, Dan (Mark Bramhall) and Betty (Annabella Price), that any pity you might feel for them is superseded by affection, and by admiration for each one’s nobility. Without trying they make each other laugh—yes, and make each other cry, too. But what goes on in between is the play’s strength.
The loss of one of the 19 cats that lives in Betty’s house is the (can’t resist this) catalyst for bringing the remote Dan and house-bound Betty together. Immersed, even obsessed, with an old, clandestine love now gone, Dan is no easy catch. But then Betty isn’t truly out to catch him. She wants to be with him, to love him, but also to teach him to live again. Price is remarkably comfortable in her role: uninhibited, un-self-conscious, wise. Bramhall feels more one-note, though his character is established as one in the throes of stifling inner conflicts. When the two characters turn to the audience and speak in monologue, explaining what’s going on and what the other person is feeling, Chapatti sacrifices its natural flow. The play would be longer, but more rewarding, without the obvious exposition.
Still, Judith Ivey’s direction is affectionate and gentle on the throttle, and she has two actors who are simpatico.
One thing more: If you’re wondering where the name Chapatti comes from, it’s an unleavened flatbread popular in South Asia, and a favorite—as is the terrier—of gruff but romantic old Dan.
Chapatti runs through Nov. 15 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. $43-$50. northcoastrep.org
Precious Little: A gifted linguist receives some troubling news about her pregnancy, but finds solace in two very unexpected places. Presented by Inner Mission Productions, it opens Nov. 6 at the Diversionary Theatre in Hillcrest. innermissionproductions.org
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas: Now in its 18th year, this holiday classic tells the musical tale of a green grump who plans to ruin the holidays for the town of Whoville. Directed by James Vásquez, it opens Nov. 7 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence: The West Coast premiere of the time-jumping play about four Watsons (Sherlock Holmes’ assistant, the Jeopardy! super-computer, etc.) who become companions in the present day. Written by Madeleine George, it opens Nov. 8 at the Moxie Theatre in Rolando.
Annie : A redheaded orphan sings and dances her way to a better life. Directed by original lyricist and director Martin Charnin, it runs through Nov. 8 at the Civic Theatre in the Gaslamp. broadwaysd.com
Hay Fever : Noël Coward’s classic comedy about a retired stage actress, her writer husband, their eccentric children, and a weekend get-together gone awry. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through Nov. 8 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
Stage Fright : A film critic is drugged and kidnapped, only to wake up and find the actors he’s disparaged in the past are extracting their revenge. Written by Charles Marowitz, it runs through Nov. 8 at Lamplighter’s Community Theatre in La Mesa. lamplighterslamesa.com
The Vortex : Noël Coward’s scandalous comedy about an aging socialite and her son who are forced to confront some hard truths about themselves when their respective lovers leave them. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through Nov. 8 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
Chapatti : The West Coast premiere of the comedy about two Irish animal-lovers who cross paths and start to remember the importance of human companionship. Directed by Tony Award-winner Judith Ivey, it runs through Nov. 15 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
End of the Rainbow : The Tony-nominated drama about the final days of Judy Garland that features some of her more beloved songs. Presented by Intrepid Theatre Company, it runs through Nov. 29 at the Lyceum Space Theatre in the Gaslamp. intrepidtheatre.org
Bright Half Life : The West Coast premiere of the dramedy about a lesbian couple told in snapshot scenes spanning 40 years. Written by Tanya Barfield, it plays through Nov. 29 at the Diversionary Theatre in Hillcrest. diversionary.org