Two lonely pet-lovers discover each other in "Chapatti," opening Thursday on the Bristol Valley Theater stage
Back in the day, actors Karin Bowersock and Mark Poppleton worked on productions together and waited tables in the same New York City restaurant, talking about what they would do when they got their big breaks, and what were some of their theatrical dreams. Poppleton mentioned that he'd always wanted to star in "Sweeney Todd" — and Bowersock promised that if she ever ran her own theater, she'd do that show about the demon barber of Fleet Street and give him a call.
Their lives and careers took them to different places — Poppleton to Florida, and Bowersock eventually to the Finger Lakes and the Bristol Valley Theater in Naples, where she is executive artistic director. And sure enough, a few years after coming aboard Bristol Valley in 2003, she indeed cast Poppleton in a production of "Sweeney Todd."
So began a connection between Poppleton and Bristol Valley that's seen him become a frequent favorite on the Naples stage. And the affection runs both ways: "Not only has he been back every season since then, but three years ago he and his husband moved to Naples!" Bowersock said.
The longtime friends and colleagues have joined forces once again for a two-person play, "Chapatti," opening Thursday, June 28 and running through July 8 at Bristol Valley, 151 S. Main St., Naples. It's a story of two lonely animal lovers discovering each other, and discovering their need for human companionship.
Poppleton plays Dan, a forlorn and solitary man alone in the world but for his beloved dog Chapatti. (Irish playwright Christian O'Reilly wrote the play with the late actor John Mahoney — perhaps best known for playing the title character's father Martin Crane on the sitcom "Frasier" — in mind, and Mahoney did in fact take the stage as Dan, Bowersock noted.) Bowersock plays Betty, a more affable but also lonely woman — or as lonely as you can be with 19 cats.
"The play is about them meeting and finding value in human companionship, instead of just finding value in their pets," Bowersock said.
The play interested Bowersock as an actor as well as a director — Suzi Takahashi, another frequent on- and off-stage talent at BVT, is directing this one — "in part because we're the right age," she said. "It's a very moving play, the language is beautiful." Plus, she noted, "I'm a cat lady — I don't have 19, but I have three!" (She in fact once conducted a Daily Messenger interview in the persona of one of her cats, who was playing the role of cat familiar Pyewacket in a production of "Bell, Book and Candle.") She credits Takahashi with helping to ensure the play remains visually and physically interesting to the audience, a challenge when a play largely consists of two people talking (though both at times take on the voices and characteristics of other people).
Joining director Takahashi on the creative team are scenic designer G. Warren Stiles, lighting designer Greg Solomon, costume designer Liz Porter Woods and sound designer/composer Brandon Reed.
Performance times are 8 p.m. June 28-30; 2 p.m. July 1 and 4; 2 and 8 p.m. July 5; 8 p.m. July 6-7; and 2 p.m. July 8. Ticket prices are $34 for adults, $32 for seniors, and $26 for groups of 15 or more. For reservations and further information, call the box office at 585-374-6318 or visit www.bvtnaples.org.
"Chapatti" is the second show of Bristol Valley's summer season, following that musical comedy about the most voracious of vegetation, "Little Shop of Horrors." The rest of the season is as follows:
• "Spider's Web," this year's installment in the mystery genre, and one of Agatha Christie's more comic stories. A diplomat and his wife expect an important guest at their summer home, but instead find a shady relation dead in the drawing room — kicking off an evening of "near misses, disappearing corpses, and a slew of peculiar suspects," according to the BVT website. July 12-22.
• "The Drowsy Chaperone" is "an homage to the classic Broadway musicals of the '20s," said Bowersock. In the show, a big musical-theater fan introduces a long-lost musical featuring a showgirl bride, gangsters dressed as pastry chefs, a misguided Don Juan, and an intoxicated chaperone. July 26 through Aug. 5.
• "Montgomery" is this year's new play, in which two 14-year-old girls hatch a plot to kidnap country music star Rick Montgomery for the sake of revenge, and two bumbling desk cops land the case. Aug. 9-19.
• "Fully Committed" features the return of Tommy Labanaris — a frequent Bristol Valley face who's been absent from the Naples stage for a few years — in a one-man comedic tour de force in which he plays an out-of-work actor who mans the reservation line at a top Manhattan restaurant ... as well as everyone who interacts with him, seeking to land the right table. That's some 40 characters — perfect for a physical comedic actor like Labanaris, notes Bowersock. Aug. 23 through Sept. 2.
Also opening this week
A recent addition to the Rochester area's theater community, the independent Hummingbird Theatre Co. presents "White Guy on the Bus" by Bruce Graham, directed by Donald Brian Bartolo, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Multi-use Community Cultural Center (MuCCC), 142 Atlantic Ave., Rochester. (It opened Wednesday.) A wealthy businessman rides the same bus every week as Shatique, a young single mother putting herself through school; tensions rise as they get to know each other and about their pasts. Box office: 585-734-4453.
See him, feel him
That deaf, dumb blind kid still plays a mean pinball after nearly 50 years. The Who lead singer Roger Daltrey appears in concert Saturday, June 30, at Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center (CMAC) to present the band's 1969 rock opera "Tommy" — about a boy traumatized into losing his sight and hearing, who grows into an expert pinball wizard and, eventually, a messianic figure. Members of "the Who band" will perform with Daltrey — presumably not the rock opera's chief composer and Who co-leader Pete Townshend — as will a full symphonic orchestra. The show starts at 8 p.m. (gates 6:30 p.m.) at CMAC, 3355 Marvin Sands Drive, Hopewell. Ticket prices range from $56 to $136 in the pavilion; lawn seating is $27.50 advance and $33 on Saturday.
Organists join forces
Three organists affiliated with the Eastman School of Music — two masters candidates and one recent master's graduate — will donate their time and talent to help raise funds for restoration work on a Wayne County church's nearly 100-year-old organ.
The First Presbyterian Church of Lyons at 11 Queen St., Lyons, is trying to raise $46,000 to restore the Skinner & Son organ. An organ concert featuring Alexander Gilson, Ryan Chan and Raelynn Clare is set for 3 p.m. Sunday, July 15 — it's free, but a freewill offering will be taken to help fund the organ restoration.
Gilson, from Texas, just graduated with a Master in Organ Performance in Literature and is the music director at First Baptist Church of Penfield. Chan, from Hong Kong, studies under the tutelage of Prof. David Higgs and is the organist at West Henrietta Baptist Church. Clare, from Ojai, California, studies organ and harpsichord with Prof. Edoardo Bellotti.