Review: ‘You Can’t Take It With You’ at the Little Theatre of Alexandria

When one thinks about a classic romantic comedy, exploding with moments of farcical mayhem, You Can’t Take It With You is as classic as it gets. Written in 1936 by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, the play has tickled generations of playgoers. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1937 and Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director when the movie was released in 1938. The current performance at the Little Theatre of Alexandria provides many laughs you can take home with you.

Matt Tucker (Tony Kirby) and Emmy Leaverton (Alice Sycamore) in 'You Can't Take It With You' at the Little Theatre of Alexandria. Photo by Matt Liptak.
Matt Tucker (Tony Kirby) and Emmy Leaverton (Alice Sycamore) in ‘You Can’t Take It With You’ at the Little Theatre of Alexandria. Photo by Matt Liptak.

The play centers around the romance of Tony Kirby (Matt Tucker), the only son of a very proper Wall Street firm’s president, and Alice Sycamore (Emmy Leaverton), the only “normal” person in the Sycamore household, where the play is set. Alice is overly worried that her family will screw up her relationship, and while she loves them, she is heartbreakingly embarrassed by them. The idiosyncrasies of Alice’s family include her sister Essie (Raeanna Nicole Larson) constantly practicing her ballet, despite a lack of any apparent talent, and Essie’s husband Ed (Jonathan Gruich) accompanying her dancing on the xylophone when he is not busy printing phrases that sound interesting to him.

Larson and Freeman have cute chemistry and his “fish-out-of-water expressions” are hilarious. Penny Sycamore (Amy Griffin) is the lovable mother who writes plays and paints,  just as poorly as her husband Paul (Ted Culler) makes fireworks in their basement. The family follows the lead of Grandpa Martin Vanderhof (Bernard Engel). The patriarch’s decision 8 years ago to quit his company and stop working seems to coincide with the rest of the family choosing to spend all of their time pursuing hobbies that bring them joy. Both Griffin and Engel are a joy to watch every moment they are onstage.

The Sycamores’ cook, Rheba (Chantel Grant) seems to be the sanest one in the house and her boyfriend Donald (Robert Freeman) generously helps the family with chores when needed. Their observations about the family oddities warmly reflect the audience’s reactions. The household has welcomed other random passersby who frequently visit, and sometimes live with the Sycamores. Among the highlights of these are Mr. DePinna (Steve Rosenthal), a former ice-delivery man who now lives in the basement and helps develop Paul’s fireworks. Rosenthal delivers seemingly straight lines with delightful nuance. Gay Wellington (Melissa Dunlap), an actress met on a bus who Penny brings home to read her plays, has memorable moments gliding off the couch headfirst while in a drunken stupor. Mr. Kolenkhov (Peter Halverson), a Russian émigré, is Essie’s dance teacher, whose rough handling of Tony’s father when the Kirbys come to dinner, is one of many tension-raising events. Mr. Kirby (James McDaniel, V) and Mrs. Kirby (Kate Ives) bring a hilariously prim and proper attitude to the tumultuous clamor of the meeting with Alice’s parents.

Little Theatre of Alexandria provides all the highlights that many in the audience will remember from this old chestnut, including smoke-filled explosions, raids by the Feds, quirky-but-lovable characters, and a script full of humor. For a 3-act play, this production moves rapidly, well-paced by director Stephen Jarrett. The explosions and other sound effects are designed effectively by Janice Rivera. Lighting design by Franklin Coleman illuminates admirably the living room set designed by Grant Kevin Lane. Lane’s set decoration uses numerous tchotchkes and paintings to suggest the chaotic lifestyle of the homeowners.

Running Time: Two hours and 10 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission and one 2-minute pause between the 2nd and 3rd acts.

You Can’t Take It With You plays through March 16, 2019, at Little Theatre of Alexandria at 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. Purchase tickets at the Little Theatre’s box office, or go online.