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Theater Review:

Lighthearted ‘Squabbles’

April 21, 2010|By James Famera

Family squabbles have always been a comedic gold mine. So it makes perfect sense that Marshall Karp’s latest comedy would be called “Squabbles,” seeing that it’s about a newlywed couple coming to terms with their aging parents who can’t stand each other. Throw in the fact that the seniors now have to live under the same roof and there will be squabbles — plenty of them! The end result may not be quite as funny, but it still makes for a lighthearted comedy that everyone can relate to.

Jerry Sloan (David Chatfield) and his father-in-law, Abe (Mario DiGregorio), are definite opposites. Jerry is an upbeat jingle writer, whereas Abe lives for petty arguments. “An argument a day keeps the doctor away,” seems to be his mantra. Abe’s daughter Alice (Rebecca Lucas) is fed up with her father’s antics and wants him to move into a quiet one-bedroom apartment a few miles away, and with good reason. She’s about to become a new mother and doesn’t want Abe’s pessimism to damage the baby’s upbringing. Jerry, however, wants Abe to stay. “People live longer when they move in with family,” he tells Alice.

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Things get even more complicated when Jerry’s mother Mildred (Stephanie Jones) moves in after her house burns down. Mildred and Abe have somewhat of a complicated relationship. The last time they were together Mildred nearly stabbed him with a butcher knife, and Abe now refers to her as “Mildred the Ripper.” From there, the story takes some very predictable turns but the surprise finale is still satisfying and heartwarming.

DiGregorio also directed “Squabbles” and appears to be a favorite of owners Brenda and Tim Dietlein. The last play I saw him in was the theater’s production of “A Christmas Carol,” and DiGregorio charmed audiences with his comical portrayal of the cold and cynical Scrooge.

DiGregorio isn’t as effortless this time around, and at times he seemed anxious. He stumbled over his lines on a few instances, but those types of opening-night jitters are to be expected. When DiGregorio was on, the audience loved him. After Alice receives a phone call from her doctor informing her that she’s pregnant, DiGregorio deadpanned, “I didn’t know you could get pregnant from the telephone.” This was just one of DiGregorio’s “on” moments and certainly his best.

Jones is wonderful as the volatile Mildred Sloan, and her banter with DiGregorio was hilarious. The apparent lack of chemistry between Chatfield and Lucas, however, was uncomfortable at times. There were moments where Lucas tensed up and resisted Chatfield’s attempts at affection, as when he tried to caress her belly after her pregnancy announcement. What could have been a touching moment between husband and wife was inexplicably cut short and for all the wrong reasons. What I enjoy most about watching a show at the Glendale Centre Theatre is the at-home feel of the place courtesy of the Dietleins.

“Squabbles” is not a great play, but it happens to be playing at a great theater.

That alone is more than enough reason to go see it.


About the writer JAMES FAMERA has been reviewing plays and books for more than five years.

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