.Loneliness v. Love: ‘Chapatti’ plays in Healdsburg

The 222 is a non-profit, member-supported arts, culture and entertainment venue that’s housed in the Paul Mahder Gallery in Healdsburg. Open since 2021, to date it’s presented musical programs, literary readings, film showings and other community events.

Professional theater now enters that mix with a series of productions programmed by well-known Bay Area theater artist and educator Aldo Billingslea. Their inaugural presentation is the two-hander, Chapatti, by Irish playwright Christian O’Reilly, which runs through June 11.

The show’s title happens to be the name of an unseen dog at the end of an unseen leash being held by Dan (Michael Elich). We learn that Dan is in mourning for the loss of a 30-year love and struggling with facing life alone. His path crosses with Betty (Robin Goodrin Nordli), an elder caregiver who, after the failure of a childless, loveless marriage, has taken solace in the company of cats—19 of them.

And so, the dance begins for 90 intermission-less minutes as two lonely people with nothing visibly in common take the first often-amusing steps in sharing just a bit of their love for their animals with another human being.

Elich and Goodrin Nordli are quite effective in their roles. The script also requires them to give voice to multiple other characters, mime their interactions with their pets and facilitate one on-stage costume change that they both handle with aplomb.

The show is minimally staged on a raised platform surrounded by artwork in the center of the gallery. Its set is basically two chairs, two stools, a box and a couple of trash bags. Fifteen tables seating four guests each comprise the audience area. The tables are nicely spaced so sightlines are rarely a problem. There is minimal lighting, and no voice amplification as the modified double Quonset retains and distributes the sound well, albeit with a persistent hollowness/echo.

This production of Chapatti was originally produced last year by the Rogue Theater Company in Ashland, Oregon, and is essentially a traveling version of that show. The performers, the director (Robynn Rodriguez) and the stage manager (Kimberley Jean Barry) are all members of that company, as well as decades-long veterans of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Playwright O’Reilly, who allowed the artistic team to modify his script for an American audience, breaks no new ground with his tale of the search for human connections, but Chapatti tells the tale well.

‘Chapatti’ runs through June 11 at The 222, 222 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg. Friday, 6pm; Saturday, 7:30pm; Sunday, 2pm. $45-$85. Students free with ID. 707.473.9152. the222.org.


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