Flora Lynn Isaacson

Reviews

Make the Most of Life–You Can’t Take It With You

Wood Lockhart as Martin Vanderhof.  Photo by Robin Jackson

You Can’t Take It With You by the beloved team of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart just opened as the second show of Ross Valley Players’ 83rd season. At the helm is James Dunn, renowned Marin director.  The original production of the play opened the Booth Theatre on December 14, 1936.  The play won the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

This timeless classic relates the humorous encounter between a conservative family and the lunatic household of Martin Vanderhof.  The play takes place in the Vanderhof home in New York City, mid-1930’s on a magnificently detailed set by Ken Rowland.  “Grandpa” Martin Vanderhof (Wood Lockhart) was once part of the competitive business world. However, one day he realized he was unhappy, so he stopped working and is doing whatever he wants to do.  His daughter Penny (Maureen O’Donoghue) writes plays simply because a few years ago a typewriter was accidently delivered to her house.  She also paints.  She is easily distracted and never finishes a single project. Her son-in-law, Paul Sycamore (Richard Kerrigan) spends hours in the basement making illegal fireworks and playing with erector sets.  His granddaughter Essie (LeAnne Rumbel) sells candy and has been clumsily attempting ballet for over eight years.  His grandson-in-law, Ed (Ross Berger) plays the xylophone (or tries to) and innocently distributes Marxist propaganda.  In addition to the family, many “odd ball” friends come and go from the Vanderhof house.  Some never leave.  Mr. DePinna (Bob Wison), the man who used to deliver ice, now helps out with the fireworks and dresses in a Greek toga to pose for Penny’s portraits.

In contrast to these delightful people are the unhappy Kirby’s.  Tony (Isaac Islas), the attractive son of the Kirby’s, falls in love with Alice Sycamore (Robyn Grahn) and brings his parents to dine at the Sycamore home on the wrong evening.  The shock sustained by Mr. and Mrs. Kirby (Stephen Dietz and Robyn Wiley), who are indignant from the cheap food offered, shows Alice that marriage with Tony is out of the question. The Sycamores find it hard to understand Alice’s view.  Tony knows the Sycamores live the right way with love and care for each other, while his own family is the one that is crazy.  In the end, Mr. Kirby is converted to the happy madness of the Sycamores after he happens to drop in during a visit by the Grand Duchess of Russia, Olga Katrina (Christina Jacqua) who is currently earning her living as a waitress at Child’s Restaurant.

Under the careful direction of James Dunn, the Vanderhof household is filled with activity, all of it chosen and purposeful to the person doing it. In addition to the wonderful cast ideally selected by James Dunn, there are delightful cameos by Kim Bromley as Reba, the Vanderhof’s maid and Donald (Javier Alarcon), the Vanderhof’s chef and Kolenkhov (John Starr), Essie’s ballet teacher. This play is delightful fun for the entire family.

You Can’t Take It With You runs at Ross Valley Players November 15-December 16, 2012.  Thursday performances are at 7:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. The venue is Ross Valley Players Barn Theatre at the Marin Art and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross. For reservations, call 415-456-9555, ext. 1 or go online at www.rossvalleyplayers.com.

Coming up next at Ross Valley Players will be Pack of Lies by Hugh Whitemore and directed by Molly Noble, January 18-February 17, 2013.

Flora Lynn Isaacson