Depression Play Remains a Classic: YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU

by Neal Newman
L to R:  Liane Golightly (as Essie) and Cat Miller (Alice, also co-director)

L to R: Liane Golightly (as Essie) and Cat Miller (Alice, also co-director)

YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU has endured as one of the classic American Comedies. And why not? Who can resist a play whose theme is “spend your life doing things you enjoy”? After all: you can’t take it with you.

Kaufman and Hart’s depression-era play tells of an extended family living in a large house near Columbia University in New York City. Everyone believes in Grandpa’s (Doug Kline) philosophy of following your bliss, which makes for a very eccentric household. When daughter Alice (Cat Miller), falls in love with super-square Tony (Mike Wurzel), and invites his high society parents, (the wonderfully cold-as-ice Hugh J. Barton and Susan Blair) to dinner, she orders her family to “ordinary up” which means act like normal people. Of course, the squares arrive on the wrong night to see the family indulge in painting, discus throwing, dancing, xylophone playing and so forth. If this plot reminds you of LA CAGE AUX FOLLES or THE MUNSTERS, it only goes to show how influential the memory of this great play is.

A recent performance found this production short on hilarity but long on truth and sincerity. For example, the actors cast as Tony and Alice are too mature to play these standard Moss Hart juveniles, and yet their touching performances bring freshness and depth to these usually predictable scenes. The entire third act is a treasure, with Grandpa reminding Mr. Kirby that too many people spend 8 hours a day doing something they hate for one hour of doing something they like. This scene, in the hands of two experienced master actors, is superb.

The limited stage space at the Actor’s Net, creates problems for directors Cat Miller and DeLarme Landes. Poor Ed (John Wishnie) never gets to demonstrate his xylophone and printing press since they must be hidden in a tiny upstage corner. Likewise, Essie (the delightful Liane Golightly) never soars as an eccentric dancer because there just isn’t room. The major scene when the Kirby’s enter the living room misfires, with just too many people on the tiny stage. The drab setting, which lacks the eccentricities of the cast members, might do just fine for the many New York City plays about cramped living conditions. AWAKE AND SING anyone?

A visit to the Actors’ NET is always rewarding. This company always offers terrific plays with well-directed actors, digging into meaty roles. Each performance I have seen there, has been a pleasure.

By Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman
Actors’ NET of Buck’s County
November 30-December 16, 2012
635 N. Delmorr Avenue
Morrisville, PA

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