YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU (Allens Lane): Zany homespun fun

Family: Members of Sycamore family meet The Grand Duchess Olga Katrina in Allens Lane Theater’s production of “You Can’t Take It With You” (l to r Jim Golden, Robert Ruelan, Richard Lee, Jessica McDonald, Dan Shefer, Brianna Borouchoff, & Geremy Webne-Beheman). Photo courtesy of Gerald Cyrus

Members of Sycamore family meet The Grand Duchess Olga Katrina in Allens Lane
Theater’s production of YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU (l to r Jim Golden, Robert Ruelan, Richard
Lee, Jessica McDonald, Dan Shefer, Brianna Borouchoff, & Geremy Webne-Beheman). Photo courtesy of Gerald Cyrus

A visit with the eccentric Sycamore family is always a warm adventure in zaniness, and at Allens Lane Theater you can actually partake in a cozy meal with them as well from your seat in the ‘house’.

You Can’t Take it With You premiered on Broadway at Booth’s Theatre in December of 1936, during the Depression Era, and won a Pulitzer Prize the next year.  A comedy in three acts, the play underscores the importance of the pursuit of happiness.

The only ‘normal’ person in the Sycamore family, Alice (Kaitlin Healy), the only one with a job, falls in love with her boss’s son Tony (Vincent J. Raffaele) and fears the eventual meeting of the two families. Tony asserts that all they need is love, but Alice has her doubts. Her adorable mother Penny (Bonnie Kapenstein) writes plays all day, father Paul (James Golden) and an exuberant visitor who stayed on after visiting one day, Mr. DePinna (Robert Ruelan) create firecrackers for testing. Sister Essie (Brianna Borouchoff) has been studying dance for years to no avail, while her husband Ed (Daniel Shefer) picks out notes on a xylophone for her.

Grandpa (Richard Lee), central to all, started off to work one day over three decades ago, then decided against it for the freedom to pursue happiness instead, and encourages everyone around him to do the same, often with great success.  He collects stamps, raises snakes and evades income tax because he doesn’t believe in it. And there are a number of rare folks and visitors coming and going at all times including charming Reba (Letta Brown) and her boyfriend Donald (Thomas Abraham) who help with the house, Essie’s Russian dance teacher, the irrepressible Bolus Kolenkhov (Geremy Webne-Behrman), his friend The Grand Duchess Olga Katrina (Jessica McDonald) and a very inebriated actress Penny meets on a bus and brings home by the name of Gay Wellington (Tenara Calem).

Arriving for dinner at the Sycamore abode a night earlier than expected, Tony’s parents, the proper Mr. Kirby (Tom Boland), president of Kirby and Co., and his wife Miriam (Janet Wasser) who delves in popular spiritualism, meet Alice’s family ‘au naturel’ and the insane antics ensue. Alice just knows the two households will never work out together, but perhaps Grandpa has a good point. Go to see what happens next, as well as some of the finest madcap, mayhem, and mirth around.

Noël Hanley directs a large, finely knit, cohesive cast who make you feel at home with them in the intimate theater space at Allens Lane, and keep the action coming. Noël Hanley also designed the lovely, detailed period set, which makes amazing use of every inch of stage space. Kellie Cooper’s costume plot fits well withal, and accentuates the peculiar, and proper aspects donned by characters. It is readily apparent that this is an ensemble who work well together, along with the stage crew towards the ultimate enjoyment of the audience in this uplifting, and timely piece.

Below is Grandpa’s prayer at the dinner table as food for thought:

“…Well, Sir, we’ve been getting along pretty good for quite a while now, and we’re certainly much obliged. Remember, all we ask is to just go along and be happy in our own sort of way. Of course we want to keep our health but as far as anything else is concerned, we’ll leave it to You. Thank You.”

[Allens Lane Theater, 601 West Allens Lane] January 12-28, 2108; allenslane.org

 

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About the author

Lisa Panzer

Lisa Panzer has worked for many years in theater not only as an actor, but as a director, dramaturg, technical director, lighting designer, stage crew, and roustabout. A few of her favorite past theatrical roles include: Liz Imbrie in Philadelphia Story, Maria in Lend Me a Tenor, Mrs. Tarpey in Spreading the News, Mollie Ralston in Mousetrap, Trinculo in The Tempest, Bernice Roth in Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 and Felicia Dantine in I Hate Hamlet. In addition to theatrical endeavors, Mz. Panzer has also worked as a background performer in television’s Cold Case, Invincible, The Happening, several television commercials, and has played various roles in independent films including Project 21 productions and other commercial acting venues. (See http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3355274/ for additonal information).