PCPA-Pacific Conservatory Theatre’s new production of the ageless comedy “You Can’t Take It With You” celebrates life, love and family.
Written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, the play premiered on Broadway in 1936 and won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1937. A year later, it was made into a film directed by Frank Capra; it won Academy Awards for best picture and best director. There have been five Broadway revivals since 1945 with the most recent opening in 2014.
In “You Can’t Take It With You,” the quirky Sycamore family lives in a big house in New York City. Patriarch Grandpa Vanderhof (Peter S. Hadres) rules the eccentric household with a fun-filled fist where the pursuit of happiness is the ultimate goal. Grandpa quit his job 35 years ago because he wasn’t having fun; he refuses to pay taxes, and keeps pet snakes.
His carefree daughter, Penelope Sycamore (Polly Firestone Walker) strives to make her family happy. She writes plays and paints as hobbies but is not very good at either. Her husband ,Paul (Don Stewart) is obsessed with fireworks, which he makes in his basement with Mr. De Pinna (Tyler Campbell), who delivered ice to the house five years ago and has never left.
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Paul and Penelope have two daughters: ditzy Essie (Karin Hendricks) and level-headed Alice (Madison Shaheen). Essie dreams of being a ballerina and has been studying dance for eight years with the boisterous Boris Kolenkhov (Andrew Philpot) from Russia. She is married to Ed Carmichael (George Walker), who is passionate about his xylophone and printing press.
Alice works at a company on Wall Street where she meets and becomes engaged to handsome Tony Kirby (Chad Sommerville), the boss’s son.
Tony and his respectable, affluent parents are invited to the Sycamores’ home for dinner. Although Alice adores her odd family, she is apprehensive about introducing them to the formal Mr. and Mrs. Kirby (Brad Carroll and Kitty Balay). The hilarious meeting between the two families provides delightful insights into the meaning of love, wealth and happiness.
Adding to the hilarity are Rheba (Bianca Norwood), the Sycamore family’s maid and cook, and Donald (Iven Webster), her handyman boyfriend. Visitors to the household include IRS agent Wilbur C. Henderson (Myles Romo), drunken actress Gay Wellington (Katie Wackowski) and Grand Duchess Olga Katrina (Maya Sherer), a friend of Boris.
Life is simple, if you just relax.
Grandpa Vanderhof in “You Can’t Take It With You”
Directed by Roger DeLaurier, “You Can’t Take It With You” combines slapstick, farce, vaudeville and situational comedy.
The acting ensemble is clearly having fun with this madcap escapade. Every actor delivers a quality performance. Hadres’ quick wit helps propel Grandpa as the central character.
With his zany antics, Walker stands out as the playful son-in-law – especially when he fondles Mrs. Kirby’s fox fur stole. Wackowski steals the show as the drunken actress with remarkable physical comedy.
Scenic designer Jason Bolen does a superb job creating the quaint and eclectic Sycamore living room, where the entire play takes place. The set highlights the family’s unique hobbies including Penelope’s writing desk, Grandpa’s glass cabinet for his snakes and Ed’s printing press.
Costume designer Eddy L. Barrows references the 1930s with tapered suits with vests for the men and well-tailored dresses for the women.
Also on the crew are lighting designer Tim Thistleton, sound designer Andrew Mark Wilhelm and stage manager Ellen Beltramo.
Although “You Can’t Take It With You” was written more than 80 years ago, the quest for happiness and simplicity in a stressful world rings true today. Reminders of the importance of family and fun never get old.
You Can’t Take It With You
7 p.m. Friday, 1:30 and 7 p.m. Saturday, 1:30 p.m. Wednesday and Sunday; through March 5
Marian Theatre, 800 South College Drive, Santa Maria
$31.50 to $41.50, discounts for seniors, students and children
805-922-8313 or www.pcpa.org