Tuesday, October 12, 2010

You Can't Take it With You by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman (1937)

Summary:  The Vanderhof family is not like other families of 1937.  Or of any decade, really.  From the opening scene, we see that visual eccentricities abound:  mother is writing plays while offering treats from a skull-shaped candy dish, father is in the basement creating special fireworks for the fourth of July.  Their own personal oddities have never proven a problem before, but Alice (the family's youngest daughter) is soon-to-be engaged to Tony Kirby--a young man from a society upbringing.  Alice attempts to ready her family for a dinner party involving Tony's relatives...but all goes to hell when the Kirby family arrives for dinner a day early.

Thoughts:  The family in this play reminded me of Augusten Burrough's makeshift relatives in Running with Scissors.  While their lifestyle works for them, it isn't the most presentable or understandable to outsiders.  Though the family is the meat of this production, there are also some rich "color" characters including Gay Wellington ("an actress, a nymphomaniac and a terrible souse"), Kolenkov (a very large, very male Russian ballet teacher) and The Grand Duchess (a Russian princess...of course).

The humor in this play has remained almost entirely intact, even after 73 years.

If ever I were to be given the opportunity to do a large-scale production with a diverse group of friends, this would be it.  The antics in this play generate madcap humor; but there is also a remarkable amount of heart involved in the struggle to accept the family you were born into.

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