Front-Row Seat: Making the human connection with “Chapatti” at Bristol Valley

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” — 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.

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