Karen Sheridan (left) and John Seibert reherse a scene from "Chapatti," which opens Thursday at Williamston Theatre.
Courtesy Photo

“Chapatti,” by Irish playwright Christian O’Reilly, is a story of love, loss, rekindling lost emotions — and pets.

The play is told from the perspective of two pet owners, Dan (John Seibert) and Betty (Karen Sheridan). Between the two of them, they collectively care for 20 animals, 19 cats on Betty’s side and one dog, Chapatti, on Dan’s. The lonely pair meet by chance, and an unexpected spark ignites between them.

“Sometimes people gravitate toward the animals they need. I’m the cat woman, and he is the dog guy,” said Sheridan. “We meet by chance. It’s really a lovely story about two people in a particular point in their life.”

But don’t expect to see any four-legged friends wandering the Williamston Theatre stage.

“We haven’t hired any animals, and they’re not supposed to be hired,” Seibert said. “They’re only referred to. There are times when they are dealt with on stage, but it’s all in the audience’s imagination.”

Ultimately, “Chapatti” is not a flashy production. It features just two actors and relies heavily on monologues from the pair.

“It’s kind of an empty place,” Seibert said of the play’s set. “Very few props and two chairs.”

Sheridan thinks the strippeddown presentation offers an intimacy to the performance.

“It allows the audience to feel like they’re a part of it,” Sheridan said. “And the audience is being asked to take it in in a different way. We are doing things (this way), because we are in a small black box theatre. You walk off the street and you’re in the theatre.”

This approach focuses the attention of the audience on the play’s main message: the universal struggle for love and companionship, whether it be with animals or humans.

“(Chapatti) is really accessible, lots of humor, Sheridan said. “And you know, some dark aspects as well. But certainly, it’s about people making their way through these dark moments in their life.”

Dan and Betty’s relationships with their animals mirror their own personalities, quirks, and struggles. (The play, after all, is titled after Dan’s dog.) The similarities between people and animals are vital to the story.

“(Animals) create this space; they are important in peoples’ lives,” Seibert said. “That unconditional love that a pet can give you is dealt with, and the differences between cats and dogs is dealt with. And the comparisons are dealt with an interesting fashion too.”


“Chapatti”

Williamston Theatre May 26-June 26 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday (no 3 p.m. show Sunday, May 28); 2 p.m. Sunday Thursday, May 26: Pay what you can Preview week, May 27-June 2: $15 Opening night, June 3: $35 June 4-June 25: $28 Friday and Saturday evenings/$25 matinees/$10 students/$2 discount for seniors and military Williamston Theatre 122 S. Putnam St., Williamston (517) 655- 7469, williamstontheatre.org

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