‘You Can’t Take it With You’ at Providence Players of Fairfax by Julia L. Exline

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Providence Players of Fairfax presents You Can’t Take it With You, written by Moss Hart and David S. Kaufman and winner of the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Directed by Chip Gertzog, this satire presents social arguments that are still relevant seventy-five years after its debut, and while the play is an interesting one, the overall execution could use some improvement.

John Coscia designed and constructed a set that resembles the interior of a lived-in home, complete with mismatched furniture, cluttered antiques, and a hodge-podge of assorted knick-knacks and trinkets. The result is not unlike waling into your grandmother’s sitting room. Sound Designers Chip and Barbara Gertzog use old-time music to help reflect the 1930s, as well as sound effects, including explosives and a coo-coo clock, and Technical Director Sarah Mournighan keeps the stage well-lit and avoids any mishaps. Another way the era is seen is through costumes by Robbie Snow, including belted house dresses, dated hairstyles, and even a character dressed as a full-on flapper.

Boris Kolenkhov (Craig Geoffrion), left, and Mr. Kirby (David Patrick). Seated at right: Mrs, Kirby (Susan Kaplan. In background: Tony Kirby (Christopher Schwartz) and Penny Sycamore (Sara Evans Bennett). Photo by Photo by Emma Pfeifer.

The plot follows an eccentric though well-meaning family, the members of whom all enjoy habits that they are equally terrible at. Penny Sycamore’s (Sara Evans Bennett) writing is just as awful as her painting, though she happily types away as her aspiring ballerina daughter, Essie (Andra Whitt) clumsily dances across the stage in a flighty trance while her husband, Ed (Jimmy Gertzog) taps out unharmonious tunes on his xylophone. They remain undeterred as sounds of explosions radiate from the basement where Penny’s husband, Paul (Mike Daze) is tinkering with fireworks. While they are all terrible at their respective hobbies, they neither notice nor care, and are buoyed by the patriarch grandfather of the family, Martin Vanderhof (John Coscia), who maintains the philosophy that as long as you’re happy in what you do, nothing else matters…not even the law, as he stubbornly refuses to pay his income taxes, even when after a stern government employee visits the home.

Rounding out this farcical family is Alice (Katie Brown), the only seemingly “normal” one, who is embarrassed and hesitant to introduce them to her boyfriend and his family (Christopher Schwartz as Tony Kirby). When it becomes inevitable, Alice plans out a nice, normal dinner party, only to have Tony and his stiff, wealthy parents (Susan Kaplan and Patrick David as Mrs. and Mr. Kirby) mistakenly arrive on the wrong date! Lack of preparation and surprise means that the Kirbys witness the real Sycamore family…and they may not approve of what they encounter! Can Alice accept her unusual family as they are? Can the stuffy Mr. and Mrs. Kirby perhaps even learn something from them?

The plot and premise of You can’t Take it With You is fun and interesting, though, unfortunately, my performance was plagued with under-whelming performances and rusty accents. Standout performances included John Coscia as the laid-back grandfather, and Sara Evans Bennett as the enthusiastic Penny. Christopher Swartz also did a fine job as Tony, who must reassure his worried girlfriend.

Tony Kirby (Christopher Schwartz) and Alice Sycamore (Katie Brown). Photo by Emma Pfeifer. 

The actors repeatedly cut each other off and talked over one another, as if each one was overly-anxious to get their lines in. The theater was also entirely too stuffy and warm, which made for an overall uncomfortable evening. However, with a change of the thermostat and polished performances, I am confident that You Can’t Take it With You will deliver a wonderful evening of entertainment.

Running Time: Two and a half hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

You Can’t Take it With You runs through November 3, 2012 at Providence Players of Fairfax at The James Lee Community Center Theater – 2855 Annandale Road, in Falls Church, VA. For tickets, call (703) 425-6782, or order them online.