BWW Review: Sound Theatre's YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU a Roller Coaster of Commitment

BWW Review: Sound Theatre's YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU a Roller Coaster of Commitment
Laurie Lynch, Gurvinder Pal Singh,
Teotha Dennard, Bo Mellinger, Aaron Jin,
and Andrew Weiss in Sound Theatre Company's
You Can't Take It With You.
Photo credit: © Ken Holmes

Even before Sound Theatre Company's current production of "You Can't Take It With You" began, it showed promise with a stunning, well-appointed set by Robin Macartney. Then the effervescent Shermona Mitchell walked on stage to begin the show with tons of energy, conviction and intent to her character of Penny, the matriarch of the Sycamore clan and I thought, "Excellent! Let's do this! I'm in for a good night." Unfortunately, that excitement continued to ebb and flow all night long as others would enter the stage. Some with the same level of exuberance as Mitchell, while others weren't quite there yet, and while others still had much work to do as they never were quite able to convey their intent or character or in some cases even remember their lines. What resulted was a roller coaster of energy, pace, intent and commitment that didn't leave me joyful over the quirky family winning out, but just left me tired.

George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's play has been around forever with a storyline that has been rehashed many times so we won't dwell. It's basically the crazy family where one of the children brings home a straight-laced suitor and their family and chaos ensues. It's a classic trope and Kaufman and Hart's work still works well, when done well. The show requires a blistering pace as the chaos of the family mounts but that chaos needs to be controlled. Without the control in the chaos we go beyond storytelling and it all just looks sloppy. Director Teresa Thuman knows pacing and I could see the kernels of that controlled chaos here but far too often it descended into slow and sloppy only to be redeemed by another actor taking the reins.

So, yes, some of the cast were quite on point and some were not. Mitchell, as I've already stated, could not have been more committed to the role and the piece showing off why she needs to be cast in everything. Ayo Tushinde as her daughter Alice, the one with the suitor, matched her perfectly showing tons of presence and really conveying the stakes of her situation. In a fine bit of cross gender casting both Bo Mellinger and Laurie Lynch took their respective roles as Essie, the ballet dancing sister, and Mr. DePinna, the fireworks aficionado and ran with them each inhabiting the role beyond going for a drag joke but instead for an embodiment of the character. Chris Shea as the boisterous Kolenkhov was another one of those bright spots that truly committed and kept the energy of the piece from dipping too far down. And I must mention Bob Williams and Laura Steel as the straight-laced parents of the suitor who are thrown into this mix who took on the roles of straight man/punching bags beautifully and with aplomb.

Unfortunately, the rest, and there are many in this large cast, needed more work. Not sure if this was simply a lack of rehearsal time and if so, then it may become better over time but for the night I saw it, it was not ready. A lack of commitment to the characters, line reads and intentions that were all over the place, a pace that dragged down the show as actors inserted pauses either for unearned effect or in an attempt to remember their line, accents that came and went sometimes within the same sentence, and missed lines or characters being called the wrong name. I can overlook some of it but there was so much causing bad timing where jokes landed with a thud or plot points being muddled that it severely hampered the show.

Sound Theatre Company has become a company where we expect excellence. I guess everyone has a miss every now and then. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Sound Theatre Company's production of "You Can't Take It With You" a halfhearted MEH-. There's a lot that this show has going for it but that can't cover up what it has going against it.

"You Can't Take It With You" from Sound Theatre Company performs at the Center Theatre through March 11th. For tickets or information visit them online at

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From This Author Jay Irwin