You Can’t Take It With You is the 1930’s American incarnation of the mis-matched in-law comedy. The plot centers around Alice Sycamore and her large and unruly family, comprised of boisterous inventors, dancers, printers, playwrights, as well as several others with an array of hobbies. Although the Sycamores themselves are entertaining, the real conflict emerges when Alice’s engagement to Anthony Kirby, Jr. is announced. The Kirbys are the portrait of a perfectly prim and controlled Wall Street family, and couldn’t be more incompatible with the Sycamores.
Family Comedy Captures the Subtle Spirit of the Holidays
HE SAID: Through the cooky Sycamores and the eventual revelations of the Kirbys, this show communicates not only the ideals of following your heart and living each day for what makes you happiest, but it also focuses on the importance of family and loved-ones. While this isn’t a blatant holiday show like White Christmas or A Christmas Carol, it still embodies a lot of the holiday spirit, making it a refreshing break from the usual festive fare while still being appropriately seasonal.
SHE SAID: This is definitely an uplifting family-centered show, which is what makes it feel appropriate around this time of year. Although it was written more than 70 years ago, the themes still feel incredibly relevant. In fact, we were discussing during the intermission which Hollywood actors might fill out a star-studded movie if it were produced today (and it really could be!). Although you might at first think that Alice’s central conflict is about how to hide her crazy family from the Kirbys, her goal is really to navigate the transition from the loving family she comes from to the loving family she hopes to create, which is a timeless challenge.
Direction and Performance Flesh Out Lovably Crazy Characters
HE SAID: For a play about a tight family following their bliss, Vintage Theatre and Director Bernie Cardell have certainly gathered a wonderful cast to bring the delightfully cooky Sycamores to life. Missy Moore’s turn as the spastic wannabe dancer Essie was so hilarious her mannerisms were almost distracting during other scenes. Katie Mangett as the spry mother of the family was pleasantly zany. But the rock of the family, and this production, was Ken Street as the grandpa. He brought the joie de vie to the character while also bringing a tone of wisdom to make a solid case for purely following your impulses. He was funny, caring, and sweet.
SHE SAID: I agree that the cast really balanced the craziness and the warmth well. I was especially tickled by Mangett as Penny Sycamore, I thought that she had a unique but very relatable energy. If I were a waitress, she’d be my ideal regular customer. Moore, along with Luke Allen Terry as her husband, Bonnie Greene as Reba and Dixon White as Donald were a delightful ragtag gang. I also really enjoyed Bog Leggett as Mr. DePinna. On the saner side of things, I was quite impressed by Cingy Laudadio-Hill’s performance as Mrs. Kirby. She was hilariously dull while also being quite believable. Michelle Merz-Hutchinson as Alice provided the audience a likeable protagonist to identify with, and she transmitted her love for her family (along with her perspective that they’re not for everyone) admirably.
Design Supports Spontaneity of Family Home
HE SAID: As pleasant as the talent was, there were a few moments where the full size of the cast felt a bit overwhelming for the very intimate Vintage stage. Fortunately, those moments were scarce and the rest of the time the tight quarters felt appropriate for the choatic lifestyle of the family; a world terriffically designed and dressed by John Barnes and Beki Pineda. There were amazing details, from the books to the picture frames to the chair with a baseball bat for a leg. The only detail that seemed out of place was the giant purple bowling ball with the colored finger grips. I’m not sure whose call that was, but it kind of stuck out like a sore thumb.
SHE SAID: The design elements (I’ll additionally mention the costumes by Lisa Nell DeVeux) really helped create the unique and hectic environment that the Sycamores call home. Overall the design, direction and performance elements came together to tell a very touching story.
Timeless Touching Comedy a Strong End to Vintage Season
THEY SAID: Having just finished the monster effort of producing both parts of Angels in America (see critiques for Millienium Approaches and Perestroika), Vintage Theatre wasted no time before jumping into their next American classic. While You Can’t Take It With You might be on most “Top American Plays” lists, its emphasis on the importance of the pursuit of happiness and appreciation for those around you is what makes this play a timeless classic. While the stage might feel a bit crowded a points, this zany cast and director Bernie Cardell have done a wonderful job bringing these nutty characters to life, proving you don’t need Santa, sleigh bells, or Christmas ghosts to have a jolly holiday production.
For more a full plot synopsis and history of You Can’t Take It With You, see the wikipedia article. You Can’t Take It With You presented by Vintage Theatre Company plays through December 19. Click the banner below for tickets and more information.