By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant
Jingle writer Jerry (Andy Coleman) and his lawyer wife Alice (Anne Rematt) have graciously taken in a houseguest who won’t leave. Alice’s father, Abe Dreyfus (Howard Elson), is finding it difficult to move on after the death of his wife in Marshall Karp’s “Squabbles.”
Abe spends his time calculating the length of the bathroom breaks taken by the handyman, Hector Lopez (Enrique Bazan), disparaging his Asian heart specialist and answering the phone with a local radio station’s slogan in an attempt to win the prize money.
Jerry, being an affable young man, doesn’t seem to mind living with his father-in-law, even though the man is difficult. He’s a sitcom racist (the kind who makes funny comments about stereotypes, but isn’t really evil).
The living arrangements are beginning to grate on Alice’s nerves. Of course, Alice knows something the two men in her life don’t. The household is about to expand (if only she knew how much!).
Alice is expecting a baby. However, when they get a frantic call from Jerry’s mom, Mildred (Lynne Franks), another curveball is thrown into their lives. Mildred moves in after an accident involving a boiling pot of chicken soup and a table full of coupons causes her house to go up in flames.
Here’s the hitch….Abe and Mildred despise each other with a passion. Now the younger couple spends their evenings on the sidelines of the escalating war between their seniors in residence.
“Squabbles” is a darling of the community theater set. It has one simple, standard living room set. It’s chock full of jokes. And it’s got two juicy roles for older actors.
It’s a bit of a sitcom. Playwright Marshall Karp has a few legitimate sitcom’s under his belt, including Sherman Hemsley’s “Amen,” in which the iconic “Jefferson’s” actor plays a preacher who squabbles (the word is actually in the IMDB description of the show) with a new reverend at his church.
Jokes are like buses in “Squabbles.” If you miss one, there’s another one along any minute. Not all of them land, but there are some genuinely funny lines in the play.
There are probably a few too many characters in the play. There’s really no need for Hector the handyman. He’s supposed to be comic relief, but once Mildred enters, he’s not really needed. It’s a stock character, but Bazan makes the most of the role. He is gentle, loving and pretty darn funny. There’s also a walk on role for a Nazi nurse. It’s another character that’s not really needed, but she’s marvelously rendered by Claire Fraley.
Director Wayne Brinda keeps everything moving along effectively.
The actors do a fine job here with the material. Elson is channeling Larry David playing the curmudgeon of Connecticut. Franks is delightful as the bickering Mildred. Rematt does a fine job (her character doesn’t get any good lines). Coleman has a repertoire of funny faces.
The cast really clicks. When Franks drops a line in the heat of an argument, Coleman picks it right up without missing a beat like synchronized swimmers at the Olympics.
The biggest quibble with “Squabbles” was with the audience. At the June 16 performance, there was a woman who coughed like a coal miner. A ringing phone from an oblivious audience member. And several theater patrons talked through the show like they were in their own living room.
“Squabbles” is a pleasant evening out. It’s not profound or groundbreaking, but you should have fun, if you get a nice, quiet audience.
(“Squabbles” runs through next weekend at the South Park Theatre, at the intersection of Brownsville Road and Corrigan Drive, South Park, PA 15129. For more information, click here.)