Recently some of us from TSBS were fortunate enough to catch a few performances (honestly, it was so good we went back) of You Can’t Take It With You presented by the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre. Set in the late 1930s, it is amazing how relevant the overall message still is for 2017. Even though a few of the jokes fall flat just because of the time period, we were in no way disappointed by the quality of this extremely entertaining production as a whole.
YCTIWY follows the whirlwind life of the eccentric and lovable Vanderhof-Sycamore family, their close friends, and a few encounters with more straight laced members of society and even a couple of run ins with the government. Through all of the madcap and erratic happenings, the true and heartfelt message is that at the end of the day you really can’t take any of this with you and you must ask yourself, where does the fun come in?
From the very beginning when we are introduced to aspiring playwright, Penny Sycamore (Kari Tuthill), as she consults her macabre skull shaped candy dish for inspiration and her daughter Essie Carmichael (Lindy Ley), a hopeful albeit somewhat inept ballerina and candy maker, it is obvious there is going to be quite the story here. The chemistry between Tuthill and Ley onstage as mother and daughter is very genuine. Essie’s husband Ed Carmichael (Matt Elb) is a somewhat simple minded man with quite an affinity for printing and xylophones but there is something so endearing about him that you just cannot help but love this man! Adding to this family unit is Brent Edwards as Paul Sycamore. Edwards has a wonderful stage presence and his characterization of Paul is a fantastic blend of loving father and mad scientist. The patriarch of the Vanderhof-Sycamore clan is Martin ‘Grandpa’ Vanderhof played by Richard Lura. If we didn’t know better, we would think that Mr. Lura had been hand picked to play this role. His level of sarcasm and wit is always on point and he never misses a beat. Rounding out the family is Catherine Squibb as Alice Sycamore. Alice is sort of a round peg in a square hole when it comes to her family, but she handles this with grace. Squibb has quite the job in this production as she is forced to run the gamut of emotions and she does so flawlessly. Add to this family their eccentric friends: Rheba (Tara White), Donald (Andy Cobble), Mr. DePinna (Ron Peters), and Mr. Kolenkhov (Paul McQuaid) as well as Alice’s love interest Tony Kirby (Austin Wingate) and his less than amused parents (Michelle Weintre and Shawn Hale) and you have a cast that will keep you in stitches for a solid two hours. The Kirby family is the perfect contrast to the unconventional Sycamore’s. Weintre, Hale, and Wingate are a picture of grace and elegance that sticks out like a sore thumb in the best possible way when placed in the midst of the craziness that is the Vanderhof-Sycamore home.
Anyone who has been to JRT previously is well aware of the limited space a cast and crew has to work with in this venue. This team has done an exceptional job of making this small space look so much bigger than it really is. YCTIWY is written for a single set with simple transitions. The set has been done beautifully in very period appropriate colors and dressing. The furniture and accessories are quite eclectic and very fitting for the family’s style. In looking at the set dressings, you can begin to tell early on what ‘type’ of people you will be observing throughout the production. Each piece appears to have been well thought upon before having been added to the set, and they even included portraits of Essie and Alice! There are so many details not only in the set but also in the performances that are just amazing. It would take too long to mention all of them. There are so many little moments on stage that we know are definitely not scripted but are so natural, and to see the actors having those moments tells us that they are truly identifying with their characters. It is wonderful to see actors and actresses living in those moments. Director Karen Elb has done a stellar job with this production. She has helped this cast build a production they can truly be proud of.
We certainly recommend that you get your tickets to see this fantastic production before it is over. This is a family friendly show recommended for all ages. Younger theatre goers may not be quite as interested, ages 8 and up will probably get a kick out of most of it, 12 and up will definitely enjoy themselves. Run time is approximately 2 hours, and there is a 15 minute intermission. There are 5 performances remaining and tickets are available via the JRT website at www.jonesboroughtheatre.org