Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Broadway Theater Review: You Can't Take It With You

Kristine Nielsen and James Earl Jones. Photo: Joan Marcus
You Can’t Take it with You, but You Can Enjoy it a Lot While You Are in the Theater
By Lauren Yarger
They don’t get much better than this. A wonderful play with a dream cast, lovingly directed by Scott Ellis.

Moss Hart and George S. Kauffman’s Pulitzer-Prize winning play You Can’t Take It With You is the star-studded revival on Broadway that has me smiling this fall. The antics of the zany Sycamore family play out in a rambling old house crammed full of eclectic knickknacks and collections as unique as its inhabitants (designed by David Rockwell).

There is a hodgepodge of people living in the house, headed by Penelope Sycamore (comedic genius Kristine Nielsen), who decided to become a novelist one day when a typewriter was delivered by mistake, and her husband, Paul (Mark Linn-Baker), who spends his time developing fireworks in the basement with Mr. DePinna (Patrick Kerr), who delivered ice one year and who just never left….

Daughter Essie (Annaleigh Ashford)contantly practices the ballet she learns from Boris Kolenkhov (Reg Rogers), who escaped Russia before the revolution and makes candies for shy husband, Ed (a delightful Will Brill who evokes Mr. Bean) to sell when he isn’t busy composing something for her to dance to on the xylophone (Ashford’s attempted dancing is a hoot).

Meanwhile, Grandpa Vanderhof (James Earl Jones) collects snakes, drunken actress, Gay Wellington (Julie Halston), falls asleep in one of the rooms, Grand Duchess Olga Katrina (Elizabeth Ashley) grants an audience and IRS agent Wilbur C. Henderson (Karl Kenzer) wants to know why Grandpa never has paid any income tax. (Vanderhof walked away from his stressful business and the money it brought a long time ago. He prefers not to think about money….)

Now, throw into that mix a love story. Daughter Alice Sycamore (Rose Byrne “Bridemaids,” “Damages”) has fallen in love with Tony Kirby (Fran Kanz), son of wealthy Anthony P. (Byron Jennings) and  Miriam Kirby (Johanna Day) who shows up gown-draped and wearing a tiara (thanks to brilliant costume design by Jane Greenwood) on the wrong night.

Alice is mortified at the thought of the proper and “normal” Kirbys meeting her family and sparks do fly (the most entertaining of which are watching Day’s face at the sight of Ashford fluttering about). Chaos ensues when government agents show up to investigate explosives in the house and throw everyone in jail.

You Can’t Take It With You, first presented in 1936, was adapted for film and went on to win the Academy Award. Much of the humor, particularly about taxes and the government’s uses of them, still are relevant. So are the themes about family and unconditional love.

·         “Life is kind of beautiful if you just let it come at you.”

·         “The only thing that matters is that we love each other.”

It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Nielsen is brilliant as the mother writing lusty romances and Ellis skillfully keeps the stars from competing with each other, or from walking over Byrne, who is making her Broadway debut. He miscasts the role of servant Rheba (Crystal Dickinson), however, and Halston is just a bit too over-the-top.

It’s a lighthearted romp (which probably could use a bit of trimming) into simpler -- and probably better -- times in two hours and 15 minutes (there are three acts and two intermissions).

You Can't Take It With You runs through Feb. 22, 2015 at the Longacre Theatre,  220 West 48th St., NYC.  Performances: Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm.  http://allthewaybroadway.com/

Christian might also like to know:
--God's name taken in vain


Cliff Thompson said...

this is the best news I'll read online today! Thanks Lauren! January 2015 promises a lot of really good theatre!

Cliff Thompson said...

This is the best news I'll read online today! January 2015 promises a lot of excellent theatre!


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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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