News Section: Arts and Entertainment
You Can't Take it With You … But You'll Enjoy it While it Lasts
SARASOTA – George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1937 play You Can't Take It With You offers audiences a chance to see a predecessor to the modern television sitcom. As relevant as ever, this farcical romp about a young couple from very different backgrounds, fretting over the intermingling of their economically stratified families in depression-era America, is chock full of quick zingers and zany laughs, delivered by a well-cast ensemble of Asolo Rep all-stars.
Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff's eccentric family is weathering the doldrums of the 1930's through eternal optimism and a collective appreciation for the little things in life. One granddaughter, Essie, is eight-years into a ballet education that isn't much more promising than the playwright career her mother Penny embarked on when a typewriter was accidentally delivered to the house around the same time. His son-in-law is making ends meet by making bootleg fireworks in the basement and Martin himself, played with wonderful authenticity by David S. Howard, has given up on all work in order to take pleasure in life's less obvious virtues, though he still manages to get into hot water with the IRS.
|Carolyn Michel and Eric Hissom. Photo by Barbara Banks|
His other granddaughter, Alice, is the one straight-laced realist of the family, who all live under the same roof in a New York City brownstone. In love with her boss' son, Tony Kirby, she initially agrees to marry, but their engagement falls apart when Tony mistakenly brings his Wall Street tycoon father and high-society mother over for a first-meet dinner with Alice's family on the wrong night. Caught off guard in their typically raucous lifestyle, hilarity ensues.
Brittany Proja continues to establish herself as one of the most promising young dramatic actresses in the region as Alice, poignantly expressing the anxiety known to anyone who's ever had to gather the prospective in-laws under less than ideal circumstances. Peggy Roeder shines as her mother Penny, delivering ditzy Lucile Ball-like laughs at every turn. Eric Hissom steals every scene he's in as Russian ballet instructor Boris Kolenkhov, while Douglas Jones and Gail Rastorfer counter the odd-ball antics as Tony's stuffy parents.
The play gets plenty of mileage from anti-big government jokes that strike the same chord today as they did in the 1930's, especially when Grandpa Vanderhooff confronts an IRS agent as to what he'll get in exchange for his tax payments, to which the bean counter can scarcely answer. There are some minstrel show-like aspects regarding the family's black housekeeper and her “on relief” boyfriend that are common to the era, but a talented Tyla Abercrumbie holds her own and does a fine job of elevating the role of Reba to relative comic parity.
In all, director Peter Amster delivers a fun and entertaining evening that woud serve as a fabulous introduction to first-time theater goers who enjoy television shows like Seinfeld, Everbody Loves Raymond and King of Queens, which are spun from the same comic cloth. You Can't Take it With You runs through April 20. Visit the Asolo box office website for ticket information.
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