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Review: ‘Squabbles’ a funny slice of cross-generational life

Hindi Greenberg
Special to Prospector
Rodger Hoopman, Corinne Gelfan and Heather Bond star in "Squabbles" by Quest Theaterworks. The limited run production ends July 28.
Lois Ewing/Quest Theaterworks | Courtesy of Quest Theaterworks

You know “the sandwich generation,” those 30-something’s caught between their parents and their young kids? Quest Theaterworks’ latest production graphically and humorously illustrates the difficulties for a couple tormented by a parent on each side of their families in Marshall Karp’s comedy, “Squabbles.” This delightful play is one to which anyone, of any age, can relate.

Abe is the curmudgeonly father of Alice, who after he has a health issue, moves in with his daughter and her good-natured husband Jerry. Then after Jerry’s mom, Mildred, burns down her house while cooking chicken soup, she also moves in with the couple. The two seniors intensely dislike each other, ever since Alice and Jerry’s wedding when Mildred came after Abe with a cake knife (probably with good reason, as Abe has a depressing or disapproving word for everyone and everything). To make matters worse, the couple finds out it is going to have a baby and doesn’t want the child to live with the constant squabbling.

All this forms the building blocks for a comedy that’s fun for the audience and that gives the opportunity for several seasoned and a couple of new actors to show their stuff.

Veteran actor Rodger Hoopman as Abe, who makes it clear that he loves to pick a good verbal fight at least once a day, gives the character an appropriately feisty but cranky quality.

Corinne Gelfan, returning to perform for Quest Theaterworks as Mildred, imbues her character with slyness yet also underlying warmth.

The hassled younger couple are sweetly but sprightly, conveyed by the inimitable Jed Dixon as Jerry and, in her first acting role, Heather Bond as Alice. You can feel the vexation with their parents radiating from each of them.

Rounding out the cast is Marcus Arellanes in a nice turn as Hector, the sweet-natured gardener who spends more time in the bathroom than outdoors, and Chris Whitlock as Mrs. Fisher, the nanny who acts as though she received her job training from Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I won’t reveal the second act, which is amusing and charming, although it seems a stretch after Abe exhibited so much disagreeableness toward everyone, especially Mildred, during the first act. But Mildred does give as good as she gets, laying in some prime zingers. Which all makes for enough funny moments to keep the audience engaged and rooting for every character during the entire play.

Using the OddFellows Hall in Grass Valley could present a staging challenge, since the theater area is long and somewhat narrow. But director Scott Ewing and set designer Rodger Hoopman overcame the potential problematic logistics by creating a living room at one end that merges into a kitchen on the other, with action positioned between them as well as across the entire area. That creates visual interest and allows all six characters to be on stage at once without it feeling cramped.

This is a very nice, enjoyable, well-done production. So for a slice of real life, served with good humor, pick an evening of “Squabbles.” It runs only through July 28.

Hindi Greenberg mentally thanks her parents every day for not putting her through “the sandwich” travails. It can’t be easy —and she’s glad she doesn’t know for sure.

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