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July 20, 2010 > Theatre: You Can't Take it With You

Theatre: You Can't Take it With You

By Janet Grant

Ever have or ever wanted to be part of a uniquely original family... perhaps one full of writers, artists and inventors? Maybe even one where the most interesting people come knocking at the door and stay for dinner... or maybe stay forever? Well Fremont's Broadway West Theatre Company presents that family in all their glory with Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman's classic American comedy, "You Can't Take it With You."

First produced in 1936, this 1930s-American-family-values-farcical-situation-comedy must have been a bit radical for it's time. I mean really, the head of the household refuses to pay his income tax!

"You Can't Take it With You," focuses on the Sycamore family, a non-nuclear, multi-generational family blithely oblivious to the Depression. It is composed of a dozen or so free spirits, artists and harmless wackos, some of whom are not related but live in the house anyway. The patriarch, Grandpa quit business 35 years ago and has never regretted it. His daughter, Penny is happy writing bad plays. Her husband Paul makes fireworks in the basement with a man who came to deliver ice eight years ago and never left; their daughter Essie dances ballet throughout the house and never seems to walk; Essie's husband Ed likes to print things and play the xylophone.

It is, there seems, one "normal" daughter in the house, Alice, who gets engaged to Tony Kirby, the handsome son of a Wall Street tycoon. Alas, Alice is certain that Tony's parents will not understand or approve of her bizarre family. So she invites Tony's uptight and conservative parents to dinner. That's when the real fireworks begin... so to speak!

Director Tom Shamrell aptly leads a large energetic cast of 19 through the circus that is the Sycamore house. As Grandpa, Larry Raboy's gentle kindness truly makes you feel welcome in this zany household. Shareem Merriam is melodramatic and fun as Penny. She obviously watches out for her family, especially daughter Alice, but with a bit of scatterbrained energy. Easygoing Paul (Chuck Phelps) is a comforting presence for Penny, but has his own unique frenetic energy as he runs from basement to living room sans trousers. James G. Mantell plays the quiet, gentle Mr. De Pinna with a subtle humor and charm. Sharon Salazar as Essie and Josephy Axiaq as Ed, are quite entertaining as the light-hearted and quirky couple who make up in love what they lack in talent. Melinda Marks as family maid Rheba and her boyfriend Donald (Tim Goble) are really cute together. Their antics in the family home though seemingly quite common these days, in 1936, might have seemed a bit risquŽ.

Angie Higgins as Alice and Al Solorzano as Tony are adorable together as the giddy, romantic couple. Alice, hopelessly in love with a man she fears won't love her family the way she does, and Tony, engaging and open-minded trying desperately to make everything okay. Mr. Kirby played by Gary Laidlaw and Mrs. Kirby played by Sandi Wolfe, were perfectly cast as the uptight and snobby couple who genuinely don't know what to make of their son's madcap, soon to be in-laws.

Jean Conger's humorous performance as the drunkard actress picked up on a bus by Penny was quite funny. And big laughs were also had by John Baldwin as an outrageous Russian ballet coach/wrestler and Elizabeth Brenna as the deposed Russian Grand Duchess now employed as a waitress.

"You Can't Take it With You," though with some references to its original 1930s setting, still survives the test of time. Especially in today's scary economic climate, just the thought of doing anything because it's fun and not worrying about the money is like a dream. And of course, the play is still pretty funny even with today's standards.

Broadway West presents fun, light community-theater entertainment with "You Can't Take it With You." It offers a gently amusing night out with the Sycamore family, where everyone is welcome at their table.

Performances run thru August 14
Thursday, Friday and Saturday - 8 p.m.
Sunday matinee at 1 p.m.
On Sunday, July 25 and August 1, Continental Brunch at 12:15
On Sunday, August 8, theme-based refreshments at intermission

Broadway West Theatre Company
4000-B Bay Street, Fremont
(510) 683-9218

Ticket Prices are $22 for adults, $17 for seniors/ students/TBA members. ALL Sunday performances are $22. ALL seats $15.00 on Thursdays. Special Bargain: Thursday, August 12, ALL seats $10.00. All admission prices include refreshments. You can call (510) 683-9218 for reservations or information.

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