|Gary Anderson, Dennis Proulx, Jeanine Stassens, and Benjamin Philip|
By Tina Arth
In many ways, Beaverton Civic Theatre’s current production of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s You Can’t It With You is simply another version of last year’s The Addams Family – but without the music. Both plays are terribly funny (although Kaufman and Hart’s show is by far the wittier of the two), both feature a naively quirky family, completely out of touch with reality despite living in the middle of New York City, and in each play a daughter falls in love with a “normal” guy and grapples with the problem of how to introduce her family to his. However, your affection for last year’s production should not be used as a reason to skip the one running now – it’s just too funny to miss, and every bit as appropriate a mood-lifter now as it was during the Great Depression. Director Kraig Williams and his cast clearly had a lot of fun putting the show together, and the audiences are having just as much fun watching the result.
Set in 1936 New York City, the show revolves around the extraordinarily free spirited, naively self-indulgent family patriarch Martin Vanderhof, his daughter and son-in-law Penny and Paul Sycamore, the Sycamore’s daughters Alice and Essie, and a stage full of hangers-on who have somehow insinuated themselves into the household. Alice is the only “normal” in the whole bunch, and she finds herself engaged (and madly in love) with her boss’s son, Tony Kirby. Alice and Tony plan to bring the folks over for dinner to meet their future in-laws, who have promised to be on their very best behavior, but with the help of an alcoholic actress, a Russian bear of a ballet instructor, four G-Men, a Grand Duchess, and a host of others the evening turns a bit, well, chaotic. A mass arrest and a broken engagement ultimately work out okay after Grandpa convinces the Kirbys that they need to mellow out – after all, they have quite enough money, “you can’t take it with you,” and they need a lot more fun and less work in their lives.
While there are some variations in experience and expertise, overall the cast is very strong. However, a few actors in both lead and supporting roles really stand out. Gary Anderson (Martin Vanderhof) is marvelous – calm, superficially logical, seemingly an innocent who has found a way to live life on his own terms. His demeanor never rises above lukewarm, but his deceptive calm masks a wily old guy who demands our attention every time he chooses to speak. Patti Speight (Penny) is also a treat – a loving mother, wife and daughter, she convinces us that she is completely unaware of the absurdity of her approach to life (who becomes a playwright simply because a typewrite is accidentally delivered to the house?).
In supporting roles, Les Ico (as the maid’s boyfriend Donald), Jeanine Stassens (as the uptight Mrs. Kirby), and Diana LoVerso (as the inebriated actress Gay Wellington) are particularly effective in selling the laugh-out-loud humor in their roles. Both Ico and LoVerso augment their exquisite timing with their mastery of physical comedy, and Stassens’ tightly wound persona unwinds so gradually that we hardly realize what’s happened until she has subtly given us way too much information about her desiccated love life.
It’s tough to know whom to credit for the set – the set consultant? The scenic artist? The painter? In any case, the lights come up on an exquisitely detailed, cluttered but somehow charming living room that accurately reflects the chaotic diversity of the home’s genuinely whacko inhabitants.
Director Williams has done a fine job of keeping the farcical elements of You Can’t Take It With You from drowning out its subtler comic moments. Although it’s a long show (almost three hours including two intermissions) it never drags, and is well worth a few hours of your time.
Beaverton Civic Theatre’s production of You Can’t Take It With You runs through Saturday, October 14th with performances at 7:30 PM Fridays and Saturdays, 2:00 PM on Sundays at the Beaverton City Library Auditorium.