Cyrano’s Theatre Company
You Can’t Take It with You
Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman
This play has been called a chestnut, fluff, a farce and a mindless theatre escape. In truth, Hart and Kaufman’s third collaboration, You Can’t Take It With You, remains to this day an important theatre piece. Certainly both the funny and regressive sitcoms of our day owe a lot to the madcap offering from Hart and Kaufman. The 1936 Broadway cornball play won the Pulitzer and when it was quickly turned into a film, with James Stewart, Jean Arthur, and Lionel Barrymore, it won Oscars for best picture and, for Frank Capra, best directing. Why, you might ask? it’s not Shakespeare. Well, during the Great Depression, for film and theatre, escapism was the order of the day. Times were hard and, unlike today, everybody knew it then. You Can’t Take It With You has withstood the test of time, and several recessions, becoming a classic to be found in continuing production at high Schools, community theatres, and an occasional visit back to Broadway. In 1983, on Broadway, acting heavyweights Jason Robards, Jr. and Colleen Dewhurst were in it and this November another Broadway revival is expected.
Cyrano’s Theatre Company continues to show courage in bringing large cast plays to a relative small space. You Can’t Take It With You is a production that sometimes has a life of its own off stage. The opening at Cyrano’s was delayed a week and still opened to a full house. Circumstances caused the role of Henderson (the I.R.S. man) to be assigned to three different actors, Richard Benavides, Mark Stoneburner, and Pat Killoran. Even director Dick Reichman joined the on stage cast as Grandpa Martin Vanderhof late in rehearsal. Producing Director, Sandy Harper’s positive attitude that all will work out was, again, justified; the opening was a success.
You Can’t Take It With You is not a call that justifies higher taxes or that you need to max out your credit cards; rather, it is a raucous duel between the ultra conservatives and the eccentricities of run away popularism – think of early Homer.
Dick Reichman’s directing kept the farce moving and the actors on their toes, one literally. The cast was largely a ‘look at me’ ensemble. Dick Reichman is usually impressive in directing or in acting, but not usually both in the same play. Reichman performed Grandpa as the philosophical oracle center of his whirlwind family.
Among the impressive attempts to keep the outrageous viable was Erick Hayden as Boris Kolenkhov whose hint of Rasputin grew to the level of endearing his character of Boris to the audience – an artistic seduction. We believed him even when we didn’t believe him. Kelli Brown, as Alice, performed so well as the one in the family trying to attain normalcy by falling in love with the upper class, but somewhat normal Tony Kirby and yet still love her own outrageous family. In this dilemma, Alice has to straddle the river of chaos. Janet Stoneburner gave such substance to the inhibiting character, Mrs. Kirby, so often presented as a two dimensional character. N’Kia as Rheba really shines bright in her scenes.
You Can’t Take It With You allows us a fantasy fix. If you don’t like what the government is doing with your taxes, then don’t participate. It’s a fantasy to be sure and, by definition, unrealistic. So, you should attend the Cyrano’s production of CTIWY; you deserve such a delightful escape. Do keep in mind, though, you can’t take it with you – can’t you?