It can be difficult to adapt a stage play to the screen, even a good stage play. The filmed versions often feel confined or lack the immediate energy of the original live production. So in the case of Chepachet, it is possible that the original staged version was lively and inventive, and only the film is an awkward clunker.
Cole (played by James Crafford, also the writer of the film, adapted from his play) lives with his old friend Lud (played by Ken Coughlin) in a renovated house in Chepachet, RI. Chepachet is an Algonquin word for "a fork in the road", or something very like that, and works as a not so subtle theme for the film. The two were involved in a violent car accident two years previously, which Lud caused through driving drunk. Cole's throat was damaged when he was thrown from the car, and Lud's leg was mangled, causing him to walk with a limp. Why the two live together, since, despite their long friendship, they seem to despise one another, is a mystery into which the film never delves.
The two hire a young woman from a nearby school for mentally challenged girls (all of whom, by the way, look like models) to clean up and cook for them a few days a week. Karen (Arune Kital) works for them about a month prior to the main action of the film. Lud alternates between a mocking contempt and sordid lust for the attractive yet IQ challenged young lady, while Cole develops a putatively platonic obsession with her. Things go quite well, regardless, until Karen starts to act strangely. Around Lud at least she is skittish and frightened. For the life of him, Cole can't figure out whatever might be the problem, even though Lud routinely talks about Karen in graphically sexual terms, fantasizing about intercourse with her and insisting that Cole has the same thoughts.
Suffice it to say that things go quite poorly for Karen in the end, and for the audience. It's not that Chepachet lacks the makings of a compelling drama, or a reservoir of conflict rich in possibilities. There is meaty material in abundance. But in almost every way, the execution is flawed. To start at the root of the problem, the script is verbose, repetitive and much too expository. The all important car wreck is not only shown to us in flashback more than once, but described along with its after effects in detail by several characters. The back story is not developed organically, but declaimed outright, leaving nothing to implication and no space for ambiguity or nuance. For instance, Darlene (Christine Laydon), Coles' ex-girlfriend, comes to visit, and converses at various times with he and Lud. She goes over her relationship with Cole, talks about the car wreck, her reaction to it, etc., fully mining the back story database for the viewer. And in addition, we are treated to a lengthy flashback detailing their argument and breakup the night before the accident.
The dialogue is mediocre at best, and often laced with clichés. Darlene declares that "her heart aches" for Cole at one point, and Cole himself says of Karen, "I think this girl has an inner light of goodness." Mrs. Ware (Linda Myers), the deeply religious headmistress of Karen's school, is a particularly bad example, larding her awkward and unnatural speech with Biblical quotations. When things aren't clichéd, they are needlessly repetitive, like a conversational Mobius Strip. Phrases and sentiments are endlessly recycled, and the same conversations seem to recur and fold in on themselves.
Poor dialogue can sometimes be saved by forceful or inventive performances, but not here. Many of the actors appear to have performed the same roles in the stage production, and while the acting choices may have worked on the stage, they don't work on film, being by turns overwrought, unnatural or too reserved. Arune Kital as Karen is largely an exception to this, and turns in a respectable performance for a relative newcomer. But this brings up a deeper question about the characterizations. Why on earth would Cole live with someone as objectively bitter and vile as Lud? It's never explored, and this fundamental question undercuts much of the dramatic weight of the piece.
With all of these faults, plus the inclusion of an unnecessarily brutal depiction of a rape, there is little left to recommend in Chepachet. It is poorly written, poorly performed and thematically obscure. This is one to skip.
The image is presented in 1.33:1 standard, and has a few problems. There are some issues with graininess, and occasional aliasing, but these are not major. The action is generally clearly visible.
The sound is Dolby digital 2 channel, and also has some minor issues. A hiss is audible at times, and during a few moments the dialogue is muffled or difficult to make out. No subtitles or alternate language tracks are available.
The disc includes two small extras. They are:
The trailer comes in at 2:18, and is fair but not great, though it reveals a bit too much of the plot.
Interview with James Crafford
This is a very short on the street interview with writer / actor James Crafford at the premiere of the film. Crafford briefly discusses the origin of the story idea and its themes.
While Chepachet has at its core an intriguing dramatic situation, the low quality execution of the film and obscure development of its themes renders the final product awkward and disappointing. This may have been a good play, but as a film it leaves far too much to be desired.