Director Lisa Jo Rudy and her stellar cast have done a marvelous job of bringing “You Can’t Take It With You” to the stage at Highfield Theater. The show is a premiere for the Falmouth Theatre Guild.
The feel-good Pulitzer Prize-winning play has remained hugely popular since it premiered on Broadway in 1936. The story follows the eclectic, nay, kooky, Vanderhof family, who have found that the key to happiness is doing what you like and liking what you do. For patriarch Martin Vanderhof that means collecting snakes and attending commencement addresses; for daughter Penny it means painting and writing plays while her husband makes fireworks in the basement. Granddaughter Essie is a talented candy maker but her heart is set on being a ballerina, while her husband Ed operates his printing press and plays the xylophone. Granddaughter Alice is the most mainstream of the family; she works an office job and has fallen for Tony Kirby, whose father owns the business.
Over the course of the play the family members, especially Grandfather Vanderhof, remain unflappable even in the face of IRS investigators, police raids, drunken actresses, flamboyant Russian dance instructors and Tony’s stuffy parents.
The large cast is composed of Falmouth Theatre Guild regulars, theater newbies, and veteran performers who are new to the Kitty Baker stage. Some of these performers I have had the good luck to see in other roles and can attest to their continued growth as actors.
Kylie Laue and Patrick Preston play young lovers Alice and Tony. Alice’s love for Tony causes her to see her family in the harsh light of social expectations. She loves her family but wishes they were more conventional. Believing their family differences to be too great she tries to break off their engagement. When Tony protests—saying that it’s normal for people to have hobbies—Alice counters, “Your mother believes in spiritualism because it’s fashionable, and your father raises orchids because he can afford to. My mother writes plays because eight years ago a typewriter was delivered here by mistake.”
While the Family Vanderhof is peculiar, they are also loving and supportive, with each showing genuine enthusiasm for the aspirations of the others. Susan Carliss and Michael White are Penny and Paul Sycamore. While busy with their own interests, they are not so engrossed that they don’t also want to see Alice happy. “Maybe I should have been an architect. Something Alice can be proud of,” Paul says after an impromptu dinner with the Kirbys ends in a night in jail.
Glenn Starner-Tate comfortably inhabits the role of Grandpa Vanderhof, who gave up his job in business 35 years ago because “it took too much time.” Mr. Starner-Tate is in his second go-round as Grandpa Vanderhof; he played the role in 2018 in Provincetown.
Other Vanderhof family members are Sandy Basile as Essie and Ryan Carey as Ed.
Tor Clark is almost family in the role of Mr. DePinna, the former iceman who now concocts fireworks in the basement with Paul. Extended “family” also includes Cindy MacDonald as Rheba the cook, Bobby Genereau as Rheba’s boyfriend Donald, and Matthew Gould as Essie’s dance instructor Bolus Kolenkhov. Bernadette Ruskey and Nicole White have small but memorable roles as Gaye Wellington and Grand Duchess Olga Katrina, respectively.
The set for “You Can’t Take It With You” is as eclectic as the play’s characters—with shelves full of objects that interest the family, a printing press, and an aquarium full of snakes, just to name a few. Kudos to technical director Peter D. Cook and his team for creating a colorful backdrop for a colorful family.
Three chances remain to catch “You Can’t Take It With You.” Showtimes are Friday at 7:30 PM and Saturday and Sunday at 2 PM. Tickets an be purchased online or at the box office.