You Can’t Take It With You, the classic Hart and Kaufman play, returns to Broadway this season after a 31-year hiatus with a bang, literally. This timeless tale of love and happiness delights as it dazzles, with no shortage of imaginative personalities to entertain. The fireworks onstage match the performances in brilliance.
The story centers around one family in New York City circa June 1936, whose way of enjoying their life pushes the boundaries of what others would consider normal. As outsiders begin to encroach on the idiosyncrasies the family enjoys, conflicts inevitably ensue. The first and last come in the form of government intervention into their way or being; while the central conflict focuses on the love between Alice and Tony. Alice (Rose Byrne) is the “normal” member of the eccentric family where Tony (Fran Kranz) is the son of a Wall Street business man. As the lovers try to force their two families together, their love is put to the test. As they must, the lovers triumph in the end with the help of their families. Grandpa, played by James Earl Jones, finishes his dinner prayer and the show with the epitaph that the show wishes to give: “We’ve all got our health and as far as anything else is concerned, we’ll leave it up to You.”
Scott Ellis delivers a free flowing chaos on stage that is as varied as the personalities that Hart and Kaufman provided. The comfort that the family has in their house puts the audience at ease immediately, allowing the endearment of the family in all their quirky glory. This comfort is aided in no small part by the beautifully intricate set design of David Rockwell, as well as the lighting by Donald Holder.
As an ensemble, the cast is a force. Annaleigh Ashford as Essie steals the show over and over again. Ashford’s caricature of Essie is hilarious and endearing. Kristine Nielsen, playing Penelope Sycamore, delivers unerring comedic timing with every facial expression and line. Reg Rogers as Boris Kolenkhov takes the wonderfully ridiculous to new heights of hilarity. Supporting the action are Johanna Day, Julie Halston and Elizabeth Ashley as Mrs Kirby, Gay Wellington and Olga respectively. Each brings a character full of verve and laughter, easily demanding the audience’s attention.All in all, this is a performance by the entire ensemble that will leave you laughing all the way home; a great show that more than lives up to its great script.
Review By: Paul Morin
Photos By: Sara Krulwich