I love the oldies! I must say that today, I had one of my most enjoyable trips to the theater on a Saturday afternoon. The place- Northlight theatre in Skokie! The play- none other than “You Can’t Take It With You”, the Moss Hart/George S. Kaufman tale that allows us to take a look at how a dysfunctional family, can be, in fact, the family that we yearn to be a part of. How many of us wish we could tell the IRS to take a flying leap? How many of us would love to tell our boss “Take this job and shove it!” and then never work again? How many of us want to write a play? Paint a picture that history will claim changed the world? This is just a part of what this play is all about.
It is the hardest of times! Most of America is jobless and those who are able to find work are just squeaking by. The Sycamore Family, however , is able to make it, despite the horrors of the world, circa 1937. Just think of the facts of life. In 1930, the average income per annum was $1,970 and by the end of the decade, reduced to $1,730. To give you and idea of the value of money, what might cost you $3,000 back in 1936, today, would have a price tag of $45,000 PLUS today! The times have changed and in this particular era, life was very tough, even for those who had money.
The Sycamore family, is definitely not normal! The patriarch, Grandaddy ,Martin Vanderhof (John Judd is powerful, lovable and dynamic in this role), just walked out of his business one day and just finds things to do each day. By the way, a sit turns out, he has not paid any income tax, which becomes a major part I for those of you who hate the IRS, a happy ending! His daughter, Penelope Sycamore (played by the very strong and comical Penny Slusher) is married to Paul ( Brad Armacost is sheer perfection in this role) who along with his aide, Mr. De Pinna ( deftly handled by Keith Neagle) are busy creating fireworks in the cellar. Penelope is an author (now, because as it turns out , a typewriter was delivered to their house by mistake- prior to that she was an artist) and their daughter Essie ( the funny and adorable Joanne Dubach) is a wannabe dancer under the instruction of her Russian teacher, Boris Kolenkhov (the always reliable Sean Fortunato). Her husband, Ed (Andy Nagraj) is a would be musician who has a love of printing things on a small press. We find out later that his messages, which are placed in boxes of candy produced by Essie draw the attention of the government. As you can see, this is not a very typical family, even for that era.
The other child of this family, Alice ( well played by the lovely Lucy Carapetyan) has a real job, on Wall Street. As we learn, she has fallen in love with her employer’s son, Tony Kirby ( well created by Bernie Balbot) who comes form a family that is completely the opposite of hers. His dad Anthony (Patrick Clear holds his own with this all star cast) and his mother Miriam (the lovely Jenny Avery) are brought to dinner one day early to meet Tony’s future in-laws and all Hell breaks loose, resulting in an overnight in jail for both families. This is truly an ensemble piece and under the direction of Devon de Mayo, who has the ideal cast to pull this off, we find ourselves amused and delighted from start to finish. The other members of the ensemble who must be noticed are Ericka Ratcliff as Rheba, their maid and “friend” , her beau Donald ( well played by Samuel Roberson) and of course the amazing Hollis Resnick who brings her special character talent to two roles, Gay Wellington in the first act and Grand Duchess Olga Katrina in the second act. She is a show-stopper knowing how to get a big laugh out of a small line. The other actors that fill out this bill are Colm O’Reilly,Tom Hickey and Kroydell Galima. This production proves just how important the timing is for an ensemble and just how important a strong ensemble is to making a production reach its potential.
This production is one that is fun from start to finish. No matter what might be on your mind as you enter the theater at 9501 N. Skokie Blvd ( just down the street from Old Orchard), you will find that the beauty of this show is the pure escapism that has been created by Kauffman, Hart and of course de Mayo. This was a depression story that even now has the power to make one laugh and also to look at one’s self and see that despite the curves that ar ethrown our way, there can be a “happy ending”!
Anyone who has attended Northlight knows that there is no curtain, leaving the stage more open than most venues. Courtney O’Neill’s set works well with the stage allowing th entire audience to see all the action. The tech folk have outdone themselves with this one. The lighting (Heather Gilbert) and sound/original music (Kevin O’Donnell, along with the costumes (Izumi Inaba) and projections (Stephan Mazurek) all work to make this production flow perfectly. There was no mention anywhere of the prop-maset, but whoever handled the props, did a solid job. This is a play that was written at a time when America was struggling. People were out of work and in breadlines. People were worried about being tossed out of their homes. While it was a long time ago, even today, there are people struggling through the same struggles. There are times we need to step back and look at ourselves and laugh. This play will help you to see that somewhere there is a better day!
“You Can’t Take It With You” will continue at The Northlight Theatre through December 13th with performances as follows:
Wednesdays 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Except Turkey Day
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2:30 p.m.
Sunday, 11/29 at 7 p.m. as well
Tickets range from $25-$79 and are available at the box office, by phone at 847-673-6300 or online at www.northlight.org
Running time” Act I one hour and twenty-minutes/ Act II 38 minutes with 15 minutes for intermission. TOTAL Two hours-thirteen minutes
Plenty of free parking at the theater and public transportation can get you there as well (check out Ventra)
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “You Can’t Take It With You”