As this is my first review on Artsalot I feel a tiny background on me and my review philosophy is called for. I’ve been involved in the arts all my life. Though I consider myself a director, then a writer, then an actor, I’m also a super fan of all forms of art. I grew up in the Silicon Valley, an area renowned for its overall genius, the arts being no exception. I was fortunate (spoiled really) to be exposed early on to world-class arts and artists. So rich were my experiences I sometimes compare it to a kid that learned to ski in the Alps or had Mario Andreotti teach them to drive stick shift. I guess you could say I come with some creative baggage.
So, imagine seeing roughly 100 arts events a year and trying to divorce yourself from everything you know about a particular show, piece of music, actor, playwright, choreographer, artist, or venue. And then, ignore your training, education, and even your mood and attempt to give an opinion that is both fair and accurate. This is what I try to do when I sit down to see any event. Find and enjoy the good. Critique and question the not as good. Compare perhaps if it’s interesting or useful to do so, and finally, prepare an audience for what they might see, and give one interpretation of the experience. I don’t give compliments for the sake of doing so. I don’t try to be overly harsh either. I don’t pretend my opinion is overly important. It’s not the only opinion out there obviously, and certainly some may not agree. And that’s okay. I’m familiar with the pleasures (and the occasionaly pains) associated with having an opinion and being compelled to share it, even when it’s not being asked. The Princess never backs down from an opportunity to engage in dialogue of differences. Even a squabble now and then. Which brings us to the review…
I saw the 2nd performance (a 2:30pm matinée) of Santa Clara Players production of Squabbles. Now, Santa Clara Players is known for pulling random scripts hardly ever performed out of nowhere and presenting them in a fun, intimate space to an audience that is primarily older. This audience usually shapes the plays presented, but Squabbles was a one of two shows this season that are a bit more well-known. I’d seen a version of Squabbles a few years ago and had found it more dramatic, a tad darker, but decent. Santa Clara Players had a much lighter take on the script which I found both refreshing and realistic.
A husband and wife team suddenly find themselves expecting their first child and housing a father with a heart condition and a mother whose house burned down. This of course has comic potential but, when we discover the in-laws can’t stand each other, we’re treated with some delightful tension that entertains. The plot is farcical and predictable but, that works to its advantage, allowing the audience to “brace themselves” for the comedy they can see coming. All the actors are well cast and although I would have liked to see the pacing pick up, I have no doubt that will improve significantly over the next week.
This play has heart as well, and I think what I enjoyed the most was the message that an argument can be… healthy. Call it a debate, a heated exchange of opinions, a squabble, or a row, it comes down to communication. Life without differences is boring. Sure, rules and respect are crucial, we must be open to these differences but, talking about our differences is how we learn and how we grow. This is a great take-away for a Princess who, as I mentioned before, for better or for worse, is certainly no stranger to opinions and a passion for sharing them.
Overall, pacing issues aside, this was a pleasant, fun, simple two hours of chuckles and I give it 3 1/2 jewels in the Artsalot tiara. Squabbles plays through May 21st in the 72 seat Triton Hall Pavillion.