You Can’t Take It With You Review – A Timeless Truth

Rebecca Del Sesto and Paul Anthony Kelly in YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU - Photo by Doug Engalla
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Penned by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU premiered in Philadelphia in 1936 before transferring to Broadway, where it racked up 838 performances. The play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1937. When it was adapted to the screen in 1938, YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU was directed by Frank Capra and starred James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, Edward Arnold, Spring Byington, Ann Miller, Mischa Auer, and an uncredited Arthur Murray. In 1938, it won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director. The play was revived on Broadway in 1983 featuring Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst. A 1985 revival featured Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor, while another revival in 2014 starred James Earl Jones. Clearly, Kaufman’s and Hart’s play has touched the hearts of audiences for years. In 2024, the Group Rep presents the Pulitzer Prize comedy for today’s audiences.

Tom Kramer and Lloyd Pedersen – Photo by Doug Engalla

Set in the 1930s depression era, YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU takes place entirely in New York City in the large house belonging to the Vanderhof-Sycamore-Carmichael clans, all slightly eccentric but deeply attached to each other. Probably the only “normal” person in the house is Alice Sycamore (Rebecca Del Sesto)), the granddaughter of the family’s patriarch, Grandpa Vanderhof (Lloyd Pedersen), who retired decades ago, keeps lizards as pets, and has never paid income tax. Housed in the same digs are Penny Vanderhof (Brenda James), Grandpa Vanderhof’s daughter and author of unpublished but adventurous melodramatic stories mostly about sex; her husband Paul (Larry Toffler), who manufactures fireworks in the basement; Essie (Cassidy LeClair), Alice’s sister, a candy maker who dreams of being a ballerina, Essie’s husband Ed Carmichael (Vansh Sha), an amateur printer who delivers Essie’s candies; and Mr. DePinna (Patrick Anthony), formerly the family’s iceman who now assists Paul in the basement. Everything is going along smoothly until Alice, who works in the Kirby family office, and the Kirby son and heir fall in love. What will happen when Tony Kirby (Paul Anthony Kelly) brings his highly conservative parents (Kevin Michael Moran and Sara Shearer) to meet Alice’s wacky clan? Accidentally on the wrong night?

Cassify LeClair – Photo by Doug Engalla

Skillfully directed by Leota Rhodes – her hands full with the cast of 25 (some roles are double cast) – YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU steams along with hilarious shenanigans at every turn. Courtesy of a talented cast, the tale falls into place as the stakes go up and the place quite literally explodes. All the while, the family’s unconditional love for one another and their acceptance of everybody’s quirks is also abundantly evident, a fitting tribute to love in spite of the unexpected uproarious trials and tribulations of the clan. Mareli Mitchel-Shields’ set design and Angela M. Eads’ costume are perfect for the time and place, while Frank McKown’s lighting and Mikaela Padilla’s sound enhance the production. By the way, tread lightly. There are a few representatives from the animal kingdom to add to the spice.

Larry Toffler and Brenda James – Photo by Doug Engalla

YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU will appeal to just about everyone, given its rich family relationships and clever tongue-in-cheek pokes at lots of traditional icons, including the government, the economy, and the work ethic. This is a fun show which proves that good writing and satirical situations are timeless.

Vansh Sha, Danny Salay, and Kevin Michael Moran – Photo by Doug Engalla

YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU runs through July 7, 2024, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Lonny Chapman Theatre is located at 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601. Tickets are $35 (seniors and students $30, Groups 10+ $25). For information and reservations call 818-763-5990 or go online.


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