Fighting funny puts heart in ‘Squabbles’
Manny Schenk (from left), Steve Salemi and Julie Mitre in "Squabbles."
7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 1:30 p.m. Sundays, Oct. 13-28
The James Downing Theatre, Edison Park United Methodist Church, 6740 N.
$20, $15 for students and seniors
(224) 725-3696; jamesdowningtheatre.typepad.com
Updated: October 17, 2012 3:20PM
Take a happily married couple. Add her curmudgeonly father and his unhappy mother to the household and you’re bound to get “Squabbles.”
“It’s a fun script,” said Paul Barile, who directs the Marshall Karp comedy for the James Downing Theatre.
To play the roles of the bickering in-laws, Mildred and Abe, Barile selected Chicagoan Julie Mitre and Manny Schenk of Glenview.
“Julie is one of my favorite actors in Chicago,” the director said.”She’s a really brave, fun, sexy woman who can knock it out of the park.”
“Manny is a really funny guy,” Barile added. “He’s done the show before so he knows the nuances of the character. He has really good comic timing.”
“Squabbles” is Mitre’s fourth show with the James Downing Theatre. Mitre described Mildred as “a strong woman. She’s a survivor. She was married to a gambler husband and put up with him for 10 years.”
Mildred was a piano player and passed that talent on to her son, who writes jingles for a living. She has been living on her own for a long time but winds up with her son and daughter-in-law after her house burns down. “I think she’s lonely and, of course, Abe drives her nuts,” Mitre said.
Schenk is also a James Downing Theatre veteran, having performed in four of their previous shows. He has appeared in shows with numerous area theaters. “Whoever wants me,” Schenk joked.
We can’t exactly quote Schenk’s description of Abe so we’ll say that he called him a miserable person. “He’s rather a sad individual,” Schenk added. “His wife passed away. He was married almost 50 years. He’s an arguer. He and his wife spent their entire married life arguing every day.” After losing his wife, Abe suffered a health emergency.
“He had a heart attack,” Schenk said. “His daughter was kind enough to take him in but it proved to be a big mistake because he’s a difficult person to live with — when he first moves in.”
Schenk played Abe 15 years ago in a Devonshire Playhouse production in Skokie under the direction of the late Ed Berger.
“It’s a great part,” Schenk said, noting that by the end of the play, both Abe and Mildred “change their attitude toward life.”
Mitre said that the most challenging aspect of playing Mildred is “following her arc from losing everything, then rubbing against all of Abe’s insults, and then finding that soft side.”
Schenk is also playing a character who undergoes changes. “He goes through the levels of being miserable and then having to realize that there’s more to life than being the way he is,” the actor said.
With so much animosity between Mildred and Abe, you can guess the conclusion. So it’s probably not giving anything away when Barile declares that the message of the play is that, “You are never too old for love.”