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HPU theatre review: You Can't Take it With You
by Melissa McCracken, D&T editor

HPU’s current production, You Can’t Take it With You, does not meet the expectations generated by its great set.

Audiences may walk away a bit disappointed because the younger actors lack strength of character.

Click on image for larger view

The set, a living room scene, was so impressive people would walk into the auditorium and say, “Wow.” Douglas S. Scheer’s set left nothing to be imagined including a dart board, a printing press, and a bride and groom cake topper on display on a wall shelf.

The story is set in 1936. A 20-something girl, Alice Sycamore (Marisol Suarez) comes home to her rather peculiar family to announce that is she is courting her boss’s son Tony Kirby (Todd Middleton). She explains to her family how important the young man is, and asks their cooperation in acting “normal” when she brings his family to meet hers for dinner.

Penny Sycamore (Connie Ditch), Alice’s mother, is a painter and a playwright with wacky script ideas and sex on the brain. Paul Sycamore (Peter Bunn), Alice’s father, makes his own fireworks in the basement with the help of his lackadaisical business partner Mr. De Pinna (Harold Burger).

lice’s sister, Essie Carmichael (Becky Maltby), an aspiring, but awful, ballet dancer, constantly breaks out into dance anytime her husband, Ed Carmichael (Luis Valdespino) starts to play the xylophone, conveniently located in the living room. The last of Alice’s crazy relatives is her grandfather, Martin Vanderhof (Jim Tharp). He refuses to pay taxes and has not worked in 20 years simply because he would rather not.

Chaos ensues when Tony’s socially conservative family accidentally arrives a night early and catch the Sycamore’s in all their embarrassing glory.

The plot, though hilarious, seemed a bit slow. The writers, Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, originally wrote it to lift the spirits of a nation going through the Great Depression.

The cast, comprised almost entirely of seasoned actors, was chosen well except some of the younger roles were played by actors too old for the part.

The star of You Can’t Take it With You was grandpa. He had a way of explaining the obvious that made us laugh. His laid back, let-it-happen attitude was conveyed superbly by Jim Tharp. His character carried the story and his performance carried the play.

Tharp’s acting like the acting of the other seasoned performers, outshone the younger cast members, especially the young couple Alice Sycamore and Tony Kirby. The director Joyce Maltby did not spend enough time directing these two, who were almost set apart from the other actors as if they rarely rehearsed with the rest of the cast.

Overall, You Can’t Take it With You is still worth seeing. Out of four stars, I give it two and a half.

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