Review: 'Squabbles' has us love the unlikeable

BY BRUCE SIWY
DAILY AMERICAN

July 27, 2013

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Imagine living with an in-law — in fact, one from both sides of the marriage.

It wouldn't be funny if it was reality. But in "Squabbles," it makes for plenty of laughs at the expense of a curmudgeonly loner and a shrewish widow. This production opened Wednesday at the Mountain Playhouse under the direction of Guy Stroman.

John Little plays Abe Dreyfus, a retired New York City cab driver who enjoys pinochle, television and a good argument. Dislikes: "gigolo tuna fish," political correctness and just about everything else in the world.

Jerry and Alice Sloan (Martin Landry and Lisa Riegel) do all that's within their power to tolerate old Abe, who loves to get under the skin of anyone he encounters. They are even convinced they'll be able to stomach keeping him around after learning that Alice is pregnant.

The last thing the Sloans need in their cozy little home is a fifth body. More specifically, the last thing they need is Jerry's mother, Mildred — and that's exactly what they get.

Left homeless by a fire, Celeste Mancinelli's Mildred descends on the Sloan family like a menopausal twister. Her dynamic with Abe in particular is 100 percent vitriolic. To say they have "squabbles" is being polite.

It also becomes evident that their unnatural tension may have some subconscious roots. This suspicion culminates during a wintry storm and subsequent power outage.

Make no mistake: Abe and Mildred are utterly unlikeable characters. Each is as kind as a chemical burn. And this is all part of the charm as their hate-hate relationship becomes a little more complicated.

Playwright Marshall Karp has a clear comedic vision that shines through as the playhouse crew invites ticketholders into the Sloans' authentic-looking living room. Karp also smartly employs two elements of "comic relief" to an already funny cast of characters in Hector (Joe Joyce) and Mrs. Fisher (Caroline Shannon).

At nearly two-and-a-half hours, this production takes a bit long to hit the final punchline. But there are enough good jokes along the way to keep the audience laughing until the romantic end.