Written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman; Directed by Scott Ellis
Broadway, Play Revival
Runs through 1.4.15
Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th Street
by Alaina Feehan on 10.4.14
James Earl Jones, Kristine Nielsen, Fran Kranz, Will Brill, Annaleigh Ashford, and Patrick Kerr in You Can't Take It With You. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
BOTTOM LINE: You will leave the theatre lighter and happier than you were when you entered it and this play’s revelry and gaiety will stay with you for days afterward.
This 1937 Pulitzer Prize-winning play is utterly endearing. The zany Sycamore/Vanderhof family may march to the beat of their own drum, but they are nonetheless a loving and charming bunch. The patriarch, Martin Vanderhof (played formidably by the legendary James Earl Jones), decided one day to leave the daily drudgery of climbing the corporate ladder to simply follow his bliss. Now he attends graduation ceremonies, keeps snakes, and avoids paying his income taxes. His daughter, Penelope (Kristine Nielson), or ‘Penny’, as she’s called, is an aspiring playwright because one day someone mistakenly dropped off a typewriter to the home. Her husband, Paul Sycamore (Mark Lynn-Baker) plays with erector sets and makes fireworks in the basement with his assistant, Mr. DePinna (Patrick Kerr). Penny and Paul have two daughters, Essie (Annaleigh Ashford), an aspiring ballet dancer/candy maker who is married to xylophone player Ed (Will Brill), and Alice (Rose Byrne), who seems to be the “Marilyn” of this Munster family. Rounding out the household is their housekeeper, Rheba (Crystal Dickinson) and Rheba’s boyfriend, Donald (Marc Damon Johnson).
Alice is indeed the ‘normal’ one. She doesn’t have any fanciful aspirations and she works for a Wall Street firm. Alice has also started seeing the VP of her firm, who also happens to be the big boss’s son, Tony Kirby (Fran Kranz). The conflict of the play begins when their relationship becomes more serious and Tony proposes. Though Alice loves and accepts her zany family, she doesn’t think that she and Tony come from the same world and she doesn’t believe that his family will understand her family’s quirkiness. She later gives in and accepts his proposal after Tony quiets her fears and reassures her that his family isn’t perfect either and that he loves her and her family just the way they are.
Though Alice’s free-spirited and permissive family is infectious and very attractive to many, she is right to have some doubts. Things don't exactly work out as planned when the two families meet. Alice wants the Kirbys (Byron Jennings and Johanna Day) to see her family at their best behavior, instead the Kirbys come on the wrong day, a day when Essie’s ballet teacher, Boris Kolenkhov (Reg Rogers), is there, and when Penny is meeting with a hopelessly drunk actress (Julie Halston) for her new play. Needless to say, craziness ensues.
Scott Ellis brings the madcap hilarity of this world to life with seamless harmony. The set design by David Rockwell is spot on and the cast is hilarious! A younger actor of the bunch, Annaleigh Ashford really holds her own amongst this accomplished cast (which also includes the great Elizabeth Ashley as Olga). Ashford is a real crowd pleaser and she’s proving herself to be a great physical comedienne.
If you’ve ever felt like you’ve maybe made the wrong life choices by following happiness instead of following money, this play is here to remind you that you can’t take it with you, so enjoy!
(You Can’t Take It with You plays at the Longacre Theatre 220 West 48th Street, through January 4, 2015. Performances are Tuesdays at 7PM; Wednesdays at 2PM and 8PM; Thursdays at 7PM; Fridays at 8PM; Saturdays at 2PM and 8PM; and Sundays at 3PM. Tickets are $37-$152 and are available at telecharge.com. For more show info visit youcanttakeitwithyoubroadway.com.)