Romance is a distant memory for two lonely animal-lovers living in Dublin. When forlorn Dan and his dog Chapatti cross paths with the amiable Betty and her nineteen cats, an unexpected spark begins a warm and gentle story about two people re-discovering the importance of human companionship.
Production photos by Michael Brosilow.
With John Mahoney, a late-in-life romance surprises
March 16, 2014
By CHRIS JONES
When Dan, the traumatized Irish man at the center of Christian O’Reilly’s Chapatti, pictures his beloved in the afterlife, he thinks of her as alone and lonely. “Incomplete without me,” he says.
We are not, of course, privy to the emotional states of the dearly departed, nor do we know how much company they have around them. But as that very fine actor John Mahoney makes abundantly clear in this simple but surprisingly intense new play from a young Galway, Ireland-based writer of great promise, Dan really is speaking of his own depressed state and his growing sense that life is not worth living without his lifelong love.
Dan speaks for a lot of people on both sides of the Atlantic, of course, even if they are rarely heard.
In recent interviews, Mahoney told a story about how O’Reilly had handed him this unproduced script while the actor, well known in Ireland for his television work, was working at the Galway Arts Festival in Ireland. Although he doesn’t usually read such things, and famous actors get a lot of plays thrust at them, Mahoney was faced with a broken electronic device and a long trans-Atlantic flight. And that, apparently, is how Chapatti ended up being developed in Skokie and had its world premiere there this weekend, with Mahoney in the lead role. It’s then on its way back to the Galway Arts Festival, where I suspect it will be very warmly received.
It is not difficult to see what Mahoney must have seen on the page.
Two lonely souls find new reasons to live in Chapatti
March 16, 2014
By HEDY WEISS
Christian O’Reilly’s play, Chapatti, is easy to summarize. It’s the story of two lonely Dubliners in late middle age whose only real emotional ties are with their memories, their disappointments and their pets. And then they meet each other.
But that would be leaving out a natty suit and tie, and best of all, that fetching, curve-enveloping red dress. It also would be neglecting mention of the fact that the unlikely pair in this charming little two-hander, now in its world premiere at Northlight Theatre (and already booked for a visit to the Galway Arts Festival in July), is being brought to life by John Mahoney and Penny Slusher, two beguiling performers whose interplay (under the fleet direction of BJ Jones) serves as nothing less than a master class in acting.
Unfolding in a deft mix of heartache, despair and gentle comedy, the story is a mix of zesty self-narration and beautifully limned scene work. And it leaves you cheering for these two characters’ hard-won moments of happiness.
Mahoney is in top form – agile, crisp, volatile and, as ever, a minimalist who can achieve maximal effects. And Slusher, a true actor’s actor in this city, is so real, so full of barely suppressed fire and self-mocking indomitability, that she has you watching her every move. Best of all, they manage to sidestep sentimentality without sacrificing the special chemistry between them that is all but irresistible.
Review: Chapatti/Northlight Theatre
March 18, 2014
By AARON HUNT
That Mahoney is an international treasure is an understatement … He has perfected the character of the elegant curmudgeon; his harumphs and noisy throat-clearings making ballet music, his twinkling eyes dancingly admitting the subterfuge. As Dan, Mahoney mixes the angrily tight-lipped edge of his performance with a melancholy kindness.
A character actress possessed of coast-to-coast range, Slusher’s ability to portray an anvil-spirit wrapped in emotional gossamer has endeared her to Chicago audiences … Slusher leads an audience like a pied piper into an intimate friendship with her characters. We laugh and cry with her, and reach for the teapot when the cups need refilling. Slusher’s work makes the fourth wall completely transparent, and her Betty is another jewel in her well-deserved crown.
In a theatrical season full of character-driven offerings, where the audience’s investment in the characters is paramount, Director BJ Jones’ production never misfires. Take a hanky and a best friend, and get to Skokie straightaway, before Mahoney and Slusher get on that plane for Ireland.
John Mahoney, Penny Slusher a well-matched duo in Chapatti
March 19, 2014
By BARBARA VITELLO
Director BJ Jones wisely cast Mahoney and Slusher, about as well-matched a duo as you’ll find on a Chicago-area stage.
Both actors take on several minor characters in addition to their principal parts. But the showier role belongs to Mahoney. He’s good. Slusher’s better.
Every note of Slusher’s performance rings true. Her imminently likable Betty is self-aware, self-deprecating and entirely selfless. Recognizing a drowning man when she sees one, she offers him a lifeline.
That she’ll convert dog-loving Dan I have no doubt. She may even get him to like cats.
Coming to terms with life in a heartfelt, wondrous way
CHICAGO THEATER BEAT
March 24, 2014
By CATEY SULLIVAN
Cat people and dog people – they’re two distinct, irreconcilable types who tend to reciprocally look down on each other. But in Irish playwright Christian O’Reilly‘s poignant, funny and surprising Chapatti, mutts and felines pave the way for an unlikely common ground between pet owners. Directed by BJ Jones and starring Penny Slusher and John Mahoney, Chapatti is also a showcase for two of Chicago’s finest actors.
Deeply emotional but never cloying or sentimental, this world premiere follows the unexpected intersection between two late-middle age singletons, the one a lonely widow with 19 cats, the other a bereaved gentleman who lives only for his beloved dog.
With a narrative that gracefully moves from direct address to conventional dialogue in a production that alternates between stylized and realism, Chapatti is a mix of charm and intensity. Mahoney and Shlusher create characters that are complex and tremendously appealing. Slusher’s delivery of a monologue describing Betty’s difficult marriage is heartbreaking; Mahoney has a gravesite scene that is at once shocking, wrenching and enraging. Together, they have chemistry to burn – watch for the scene wherein Betty dons a figure-hugging, candy-apple red dress: She’s incandescent. Both Betty and Dan go through an emotional wringer over the course of Chapatti.
Watching them hurt, heal and ultimately come to terms with their lives and each other is truly a rich, wonderful experience.
John Mahoney finds home onstage after Frasier
March 12, 2014
By CARYN ROUSSEAU
John Mahoney is known to most television fans for playing Frasier Crane’s father on the long-running series Frasier, but the actor has spent much of his time in the years since the show ended pursuing roles on stage.
“You just get such better parts on stage and that’s primarily what I’ve done,” he said in an interview. “I’m almost never out of work and it’s almost always on stage.”
The Tony-winning actor’s latest stint is at Northlight Theatre in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, where he stars in Chapatti. The piece is by Irish playwright Christian O’Reilly and tells the story of a man living in Dublin with his dog named Chapatti. It runs March 7 to April 13 before going to Galway, Ireland.
The play’s director, Northlight Theatre artistic director BJ Jones, said Mahoney isn’t pretentious and describes him as “a real Chicago kind of guy.”
He’s done more than 30 productions with Steppenwolf and has performed in plays around the world. Audiences are drawn to Mahoney’s honesty and magnetism on stage, Jones said.
“I think an audience sees spiritually who John is,” Jones said. “They can sense he is a human being. They can see themselves in him. So an audience sees truth there. The kind of truth they can identify with.”
John Mahoney back at Northlight for Chapatti
March 5, 2014
By CATEY SULLIVAN
A decade after his last episode on the hit sitcom Frasier, venerable actor John Mahoney, 73, can afford to be super-selective about when and where he wants to work.
Having famously portrayed Martin Crane on the well-regarded TV show from 1993 until 2004, the Oak Park resident allows that he has the luxury of being particular with his projects. Over the past year, he’s opted for roles that took him from Hollywood to Liverpool, England and finally, to Skokie, where he’ll star in Northlight Theatre’s world premiere production of playwright Christian O’Reilly’s bittersweet drama, Chapatti.
“I don’t pursue TV or film much anymore, unless it’s something I really, really want to do,” Mahoney explains shortly after returning from stints in California, where he played Betty White’s boytoy in Hot in Cleveland and from Liverpool, where he shot a guest starring spot on the acclaimed British series Foyle’s War. “I’m perfectly happy going on stage in Chicago,” he adds.
Northlight audiences reciprocate the enthusiasm. Mahoney was crucial to the box office and critical success of 2011’s The Outgoing Tide, a project that fortuitously took Mahoney, Northlight Artistic Director BJ Jones and co-star Rondi Reed to Ireland for a run at the Galway Arts Festival. That trip, Mahoney recalls, was directly responsible for his involvement in Chapatti.
“Christian [O’Reilly] slipped the script under the door of my dressing room one night,” Mahoney says. “You know, they tell actors not to read unsolicited scripts. You’re just not supposed to do that. But I had nothing to read on the plane back to Chicago, so I read it. And when we landed, I called BJ.”
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Theatre: A pair of magnificent actors-John Mahoney and Penny Slusher-team up for Christian O’Reilly’s Dublin-set romance between a man, a woman, 19 cats, and the titular beast: a dog. Read more>
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By CATEY SULLIVAN
Critic’s Pick – Chapatti Read more>
John previously appeared at Northlight in The Outgoing Tide, A Life, and Better Late. He starred in the Broadway revival of Prelude to a Kiss, Romance at the Almeida Theatre in London, and I Never Sang for My Father at Steppenwolf. He has appeared in over 30 Steppenwolf productions where he is a member of the ensemble. He received a Tony Award for his performance in The House of Blue Leaves. Films include She’s the One, Moonstruck, Tin Men, Primal Fear, Say Anything, Barton Fink, and Flipped. On TV, John starred in In Treatment, Dinner at Eight, The Water Engine, an upcoming Foyle’s War, and the 5-time Emmy Award-winning series Frasier, for which he received multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for his portrayal of patriarch Martin Crane. John is a recipient of the prestigious Sarah Siddons Award, only the second male (after Brian Dennehy) to be so honored.
Penny last appeared at Northlight in You Can’t Take It With You. Other Northlight productions include Chapatti, Sense & Sensibility and A Life. Chicago credits include: Sweet Bird of Youth (Goodman); Uncle Vanya (After Dark Award), The Importance of Being Earnest, James Joyce’s “The Dead” (Court); Old Glory, Another Part of the Forest (Jeff Award), Bus Stop, The Subject Was Roses (Writers). Regional: Chapatti and The Hollow (Peninsula Players), My Fair Lady (Asolo Repertory), Sense & Sensibility (Actors Theatre of Louisville and Saint Louis Repertory). International Theatre: Chapatti and Stella & Lou (Northlight at Galway International Arts Festival, Ireland), August: Osage County (Steppenwolf at Sydney Theatre, Australia). Film: Virginia, Meet the Browns, Grace is Gone. Television: The Connie Banks Show.
Plays include It Just Came Out (Druid Debut Series 2001), The Good Father (Druid – Galway Arts Festival 2002; national tour 2003; joint winner of the 2002 Stewart Parker Trust New Playwright Bursary), Is This About Sex? (Rough Magic – 2007 Edinburgh Fringe Festival; 50th Dublin Theatre Festival; winner of Best Theatre Script at the 2008 Irish Writers’ Guild Awards), Here We Are Again Still (Decadent/Galway City Council – 2009 Nun’s Island; Bealtaine Festival and national tour in 2011), and Sanctuary (Blue Teapot – 2012 Galway Theatre Festival; 2013 Galway Arts Festival and Dublin Fringe Festival). His screen credits include episodes of BBC One dramas Doctors, Casualty, and Holby City as well as Inside I’m Dancing (2004), a feature film based on his original story, which was released in the US as Rory O’Shea Was Here.
BJ is in his 21st season as Artistic Director of Northlight. Mr Jones is a two-time Joseph Jefferson Award Winning actor and a three-time nominated director. He has directed the world premieres of Relativity, Charm, Faceless, White Guy on the Bus, Chapatti, The Outgoing Tide, Better Late, and Rounding Third. Notably he has directed productions of Outside Mullingar, Grey Gardens, The Price, The Lieutenant of Innishmore, and The Beauty Queen of Leenane. As a producer he has guided the world premieres of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, Shining Lives, The Last Five Years, and Studs Terkel’s ‘The Good War.’ Additional directorial credits include Pitmen Painters (Timeline); 100 Saints You Should Know (Steppenwolf); Glengarry Glen Ross (Alliance Theatre, Atlanta); The Lady with All the Answers (Cherry Lane, New York); Animal Crackers (Baltimore Center Stage); Three Musketeers, The Tempest, Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing (Utah Shakespeare Festival), and four productions at the Galway International Arts Festival. As a performer, he has appeared at Northlight, Goodman, Steppenwolf, Court and other theatres throughout Chicago. Film/TV credits include The Fugitive, Body Double, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Early Edition, Cupid, and Turks, among others.
Jack most recently designed Discord and Mothers and Sons at Northlight. Recent Chicago and regional design credits include Other Than Honorable (Geva Theatre), Evita (Kansas City Rep), The Flick (Steppenwolf), Rapture Blister Burn (Goodman), The Who and The What (Lincoln Center Theatre-LCT3 and La Jolla Playhouse), Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Court), East Texas Hot Links and The Diary of Anne Frank (Writers), South Pacific (Clarence Brown Theatre), Man of La Mancha and The Mousetrap (Milwaukee Repertory Theatre). Ten Jeff Award nominations include designs for The Diary of Anne Frank (Writers) and Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Court). Upcoming projects include A Flea In Her Ear (American Players Theatre) and Fences (Kansas City Rep). Jack lives in Chicago and teaches design at The Theatre School at DePaul University. www.jackmagaw.com
Rachel is honored to be joining Northlight for the 23rd time after last season’s By the Water and Relativity. Her designs have previously been seen Off Broadway at Pearl Theatre and regionally at Chicago Shakespeare, Steppenwolf First Look, Writers, Court, Milwaukee Rep, Great Lakes Theatre, Idaho Shakespeare, American Players, Florentine Opera, Drury Lane, Arizona Theatre Company, Resident Ensemble Players, Kansas City Rep, Utah Shakespeare, Actors Theatre Louisville, Illinois Shakespeare, Next Act, Peninsula Players, Remy Bumppo, Timeline, Chamber, Renaissance Theaterworks, Skylight Music Theatre, Arkansas Shakespeare, Children’s Theatre of Madison and University of Michigan. Other professional credits include NBC’S Law & Order, Chicago Opera Theatre, and Garsington Opera. Rachel is a recipient of a 2011 Emerging Artist Award from the University of Michigan and a 2009 Joseph Jefferson Award for Voysey Inheritance. www.rachellaritz.com
Northlight credits include The Legend of Georgia McBride, Relativity, By the Water, Charm, Shining Lives, Outside Mullingar, White Guy on the Bus, Detroit ’67, The Odd Couple, Ten Chimneys, Season’s Greetings, A Life, Grey Gardens, The Retreat From Moscow, Lady, Stella & Lou, The Outgoing Tide, Better Late and Chapatti (the last four also at the Galway International Arts Festival, Ireland). Other work has been seen at Lookingglass, Victory Gardens, About Face, Remy Bumppo, Writers, Steppenwolf and Walkabout. JR designed lighting for seven years of the Steppenwolf TRAFFIC Series, and five Steppenwolf performances in Chicago’s Millennium Park. He has served as head of the Lighting Department at Steppenwolf since 1995.
Composer & Sound Design
Denis has produced work for theatre and dance with the Abbey, Gate, Rough Magic, Fishamble, Corn Exchange, Junk Ensemble, and many others. He won the Irish Times theatre award for Best Design Sound in 2011, was an associate artist with the Abbey in 2008, and was a participant on Rough Magic’s ADVANCE programme in 2012. He has also composed extensively for film and television including The Irish Pub, His and Hers, The Reluctant Revolutionary, and the television series The Limits of Liberty performed by the RTE Concert Orchestra.
Kristin Leahey, Ph.D
Kristin is the Resident Dramaturg at Northlight and formerly the Literary Manager at A Red Orchid and Woolly Mammoth in Washington, DC. She has worked with Goodman, The Kennedy Center, Indiana Repertory, Cleveland Play House, Victory Gardens, The Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival, Collaboraction, Teatro Luna, Teatro Vista, Steep, Eclipse, Redmoon, Next and A Red Orchid. Leahey received her M.A. from Northwestern and her Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin. Her publications include articles in Theatre Topics, Theatre History and Theatre Studies, and she has taught at Columbia College, University of Chicago and DePaul University. She is an Artistic Associate at Steep Theatre Company and was the 2014 artist-in-residence at Weber State.
Laura D. Glenn
Production Stage Manager
Over the past fourteen years with Northlight, production stage management credits include Outside Mullingar, The Mousetrap, Chapatti, The Whipping Man, The Odd Couple, Ten Chimneys, Season’s Greetings, Sense & Sensibility, A Life, Souvenir, Better Late (also at the Galway Arts Festival), Retreat from Moscow, Permanent Collection, Cat Feet, Blue/Orange, Tuesdays with Morrie, Sky Girls, Rounding Third and A Skull in Connemara. Other credits include stage management for Domesticated, Grand Concourse, The Qualms, Lord of the Flies, Slowgirl, Head of Passes, Three Sisters,Middletown, To Kill a Mockingbird, a parallelogram, Superior Donuts, Betrayal, Love Song, I Never Sang for my Father, The Violet Hour, Purple Heart, The Drawer Boy, Picasso at the Lapin Agile and many others at Steppenwolf over the past twenty-five years. International credits include Orange Flower Water and Purple Heart (Steppenwolf) at the Galway Arts Festival in Galway, Ireland; The Man Who Came to Dinner – BITE festival at the Barbican Center in London; and the regional and Broadway productions of Buried Child. Laura has been a proud member of Actors Equity Association for almost twenty-six years.