Perhaps having run out of Neil Simon plays to perform, the folks at Ottavio's Dinner Theatre have come up with the next best thing, Marshall Karp's "Squabbles."
In terms of tone and content, it's a tossup between whether the play is an homage to or parody of Simon. Of course, much the same can be said of some of Simon's own plays.
The play was written especially for dinner theater--which means it uses a relatively small cast and one set; doesn't require a lot of mental effort to appreciate after a good-sized meal, and is aimed at a typical dinner theater audience.
But don't worry: There were several people under 60 at the sold-out opening show last week (some of them teen-agers or younger), who seemed to be enjoying Karp's faux-Simon dialogue even if they didn't fully appreciate references to Generalissimo Francisco Franco, Sen. Joseph McCarthy and Lawrence Welk.
The show also gives away its--or Karp's--age by giving one character a (perhaps unconscious) prejudice and by using (pardon the expression) a running gag involving a flushing toilet. Both should have died when "All in the Family" went into syndication.
Jerry Sloan (Keith Jacobs) is a commercial jingle writer in his late 30s, living in Connecticut with his wife, Alice (Judy Weaver), and her father, Abe Dreyfuss (Don Pearlman). Virtually at once, the couple learns that Alice is going to have a baby and that Jerry's mother, Mildred (Pat Stewart), has been displaced from her house by a fire and needs a place to live. There are two problems: With the baby, there won't be enough room for a second in-law; and Abe and Mildred can't abide one another. High jinks ensue, you bet, as well as a fair number of solid laughs.
Other characters include the Sloans' Puerto Rican handyman, Hector (Charlie DeNatale); Abe's good friend, Sol Wasserman (Robert E. (Doc) Reynolds); and a strict, humorless nanny (JoAnna Jocelyn) hired to take care of the baby against the protests of Abe and Mildred. Each of them suggests living with the couple and taking care of the baby, with the other in-law moving to a nearby apartment.
The performances, under Martin Horsey's direction, are amiable enough and of consistent quality--a consistency that, unfortunately if not fatally, results in a game of "What's That Accent?" when listening to just about anybody who's supposed to have one.
* WHAT: "Squabbles."
* WHEN: Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m., through April 15.
* WHERE: Ottavio's Banquet Facility, 340 Mobil Ave., Camarillo.
* HOW MUCH: $26 per person, Thursday; $28 Friday, and $30 Saturday includes show, buffet dinner, nonalcoholic beverage, tax and gratuity. Discounts available for children and youths (ages 12-19) for all performances; for seniors, on Thursdays only. Season tickets, group rates and fund-raising programs also available.
* CALL: For reservations or information, call 484-9909.
* FYI: Doors open at 6:30 p.m., dinner is served at 7; show begins sometime after 8.