The cast of Early Bird Dinner Theatre’s production of “Squabbles,” includes, seated, from left, Tom Gannon, Tracy Borgatti, Barbara Anthony and Jennifer Sloane; standing, Midge Mamatas and Bill Henricks.
CLEARWATER – Director Robin New makes quarreling comical in “Squabbles,” a comedy by Marshall Karp, running through Oct. 25 at Early Bird Dinner Theatre, in the Italian American Club, 200 S. McMullen-Booth Road.
Performances are Thursday through Sunday, with seating at 4 p.m. Matinees are Thursday and Saturday, with seating at 11 a.m. Tickets are $29.90 a person.
“Squabbles” involves a healthy dose of in-law animosity, handled skillfully by veteran actors so that the skirmishes are far more humorous than hostile – at least from the audience’s perspective. As the play opens, Jerry and Alice Sloan – a happily married couple – have taken in Alice’s terminally argumentative father due to his health problems. Already dealing with a crowded house, the Sloans soon discover other additions are on the way – including Jerry’s mother, who has lost her home.
Alice’s father Abe and Jerry’s mother Mildred are sworn enemies. The ensuing confrontations are crisp and sidesplittingly funny but don’t detract from the overall playful and poignant nature of the play.
Few would disagree that the true heart of “Squabbles” is Bill Henricks. Henricks’ consummate portrayal of the curmudgeonly Abe is invested with the perfect blend of irony and affection. With a keen sense of comic timing, Henricks commandeers most of the pivotal scenes and keeps the story rolling and the audience laughing.
Tracy Borgatti stars as Alice and Tom Gannon plays Jerry. Both Borgatti and Gannon deliver enjoyable, somewhat toned-down performances, providing the perfect backdrop for the play’s more immoderate characters.
As Mildred, Midge Mamatas mirrors Henricks’ intensity and adds a dose of motherly misery. She serves as the perfect nemesis in a comedic succession of squabbles.
The play also boasts two breakout performances in supporting roles.
Barbara Anthony does a phenomenal job as the Sloans’ South American housekeeper Maria. Her performance is more than a little reminiscent of Hank Azaria’s Agador in the 1996 film “The Birdcage.”
Jennifer Sloane turns in an equally uproarious performance as the fascist nanny Mrs. Fisher, who makes her first appearance toward the end of the play. Despite a scarcity of lines and limited stage time, Sloane successfully communicates the character’s eccentric traits and sparks hearty guffaws.
Considering the show’s characters are in a constant state of discord, there is actually quite a bit of harmony between the cast members – something that is common on the stage at Early Bird Dinner Theatre.
There’s no need arguing about it: “Squabbles” is a crowd-pleaser.