BWW Review: YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU Still Entertains After 80+ Years
Rochester's Screen Plays continues what it does best with their current production of You Can't Take it With You: present Hollywood's most iconic stories in the small, intimate setting of the Multi-Use Community Cultural Center (referred to by most as "The MuCCC"). This play, based on the Academy Award-winning 1938 romantic comedy starring Jean Arthur and Frank Capra, tells the story of what happens when two families-one prim and snobbish, the other wonderfully eccentric- collide.
The Sycamores (technically the Vanderhof-Sycamore-Carmichaels) are the zaniest, most eclectic bunch of folks you're likely to ever meet. Martin Vanderhof (Roger Gans), the patriarch usually referred to simply as "Grandpa", is a tax-dodging old kook who raises snakes. Penelope Carmichael (Kate Lacy Stokoe) is an aspiring painter and playwright, who happens to be terrible at both. Ed Carmichael (William Pulver) plays the xylophone and loves to print any and everything, include the family's nightly dinner menu. His wife Essie (Kathy Dauer) is a novice ballerina and candy-maker. Even Mr. De Pinna (Ken Dauer), who's not technically a member of the family, practically lives in the basement as he tinkers away at fireworks and modeling for Penelope's paintings. You get the picture.
The only normal one in the bunch is Alice Sycamore (Tammi Colombo), a typist who wants to bring Tony Kirby (Derek Schneider)-the young VP of her company whom she's recently started dating, and his parents (Stephen Cena and Donna Carpino)-home to meet the family. Tony "accidentally" brings them over for dinner a night too early and all hell breaks loose as the polished socialites clash with the chaos and disorder of the Sycamore clan.
While it takes a scene-or-two to find its footing (not necessarily a fault of the production, the play's first 20-ish minutes just aren't super interesting), the cast eventually settles into a steady rhythm of comedic bedlam, climaxing in Act II during the Kirby/Sycamore introduction. Between the ballerina lessons happening in the living room, the drunken actress (Suzanne Bell) passed out on the couch, and Mr. De Pinna oddly dressed as a Greek Olympian, a truly hilarious mixing of oil and water is presented to the audience as the tuxedoed Kirbys stand at the home's threshold in utter terror.
Every character in the show-and there are many-have their own laughter-eliciting moment(s), and the cast has wonderful chemistry; it's not hard to believe that this cohort of nutjobs really are a family (despite the ages of a few of the actors being out-of-sync with their characters). Though they all gave me a chuckle at different moments, Mr. Kolenkhov (David Byrne)-the Russian ballet instructor constantly decrying Stalin-is the comedic standout. I also particularly enjoyed the dinner table showdown between Grandpa and the tax lackey from the IRS. It's also curious, and pretty comical, that this show-a commonly produced one among high schools and community theatre groups, due to its large cast-is rife with pretty blatant anti-communist themes.
Despite a few forgivable line drops and technical hiccups, I thoroughly enjoyed Screen Plays' production of You Can't Take it With You. It's fast-paced, funny, and still entertains after 80 years. It's playing at the MuCCC until March 18th. For tickets and more information, click here.