You Can’t Take It With You Review - A Fun and Thoughtful Show

 

Hollis Resnik, Penny Slusher, Lucy Carapetyan, and Joanne Dubach in You Can’t Take It With You at Northlight Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow

 

Continuing its 41st season, Northlight Theatre presents the Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy You Can’t Take It With You, directed by Devon de Mayo.  Quirky and touching, this story of the wacky Sycamore family’s attempts to connect with the straight-laced Kirbys is both entertaining and meaningful.

 

Cast of You Can’t Take It With You at Northlight Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow

 

Set at the end of America’s Great Depression, the play opens with the introduction of a colorful cast of characters, each with a few defining hobbies or quirks. In the Sycamore household, we learn, snakes, explosions, xylophone music, and the sounds of typewriter and printing press alike are just a part of daily life. The last member of the family we meet is Alice, a young woman in love and the most ordinary person in the household. Her fiancé, Tony Kirby, is the son of Alice’s boss at her office job on Wall Street. Wanting to help alleviate Alice’s fears that the two families will never get along, the Sycamores agree to cover up a few of their eccentricities and have Tony’s family over for a nice, normal dinner. But when the Kirbys arrive for dinner a night earlier than expected, chaos ensues, and the future of Alice and Tony’s relationship hangs in the balance.

 

Cast of You Can’t Take It With You at Northlight Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow

 

You Can’t Take It With You is absolutely an ensemble show, and Northlight has chosen an excellent ensemble for its purposes. Highlights among the actors include Joanne Dubach, who plays absentminded aspiring dancer Essie with a blend of sincerity, sweetness, and awkward charm that makes her a delight to watch. Ericka Ratcliff and Samuel Robertson, who play Rheba and Donald, respectively, bring a vibrant and engaging dynamic to their characters’ relationship and to the stage in general. Finally, John Judd must be complimented for his masterful portrayal of family patriarch Martin Vanderhof, whose clever antics to avoid the IRS are at the comedic heart of the play and whose soft-spoken discussion about the purpose of life with Mr. Kirby at the end of the show holds the play’s philosophical center.

 

Penny Slusher, John Judd, Samuel Roberson, and Hollis Resnik in You Can’t Take It With You at Northlight Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow

 

The least interesting part of the story is, ironically, the relationship that sets the events of the play in motion. It is through no fault of actors Lucy Carapetyan and Bernie Balbot, who play Alice and Tony, respectively, that their characters’ romance falls flat in comparison to the lively goings-on of the rest of the family. Fortunately, their stage time alone together is limited, and the show’s pacing does not suffer too much because of it.

 

Bernie Balbot and Lucy Carapetyan in You Can’t Take It With You at Northlight Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow

 

The technical elements of the production are just as strong as the acting ensemble. Set design by Courtney O’Neill is striking, with contrasting colors and appropriately quirky set dressing providing nearly as much entertainment as the storytelling itself. Special effects are another highlight of the play; a firework lit onstage, a clever trick with a set of darts, and a colorful explosion at the end of act two are dazzling in the cleanness and simplicity of their execution.

 

Penny Slusher, Bernie Balbot, and Joanne Dubach in You Can’t Take It With You at Northlight Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow

 

You Can’t Take It With You is one of those rare plays that truly stands the test of time. Its joy-de-virve spirit and refusal to settle for a life of miserable drudgery is just as relevant today as it was in 1936, and the play is presented not as a relic preserved for the sake of preservation, but as a piece of art valuable to a modern audience in its message and themes. Northlight Theatre has done an excellent job with this production.

 

Tickets

Dates: November 14 – December 13, 2015

 

Schedule

Tuesdays: 7:30pm (except Nov 17 and Dec 8)

Wednesdays: 1:00pm and 7:30pm

Thursdays:7:30pm (except Nov 26)

Fridays: 8:00pm

Saturdays: 2:30pm (except Nov 7) and 8:00pm

Sundays: 2:30pm; and 7:00pm (Nov 8 and 29 only)

 

Location: Northlight Theatre is located at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie

 

Tickets: $25-$79. Student tickets are $15, any performance (subject to availability)

 

Box Office: The Box Office is located at 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie. 847.673.6300; the Northlight website.

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