By Beki Pineda
YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU. Written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman; directed by Jamie Billings. Produced by Miners Alley Playhouse (1224 Washington St., Golden) through May 1. Tickets available at 303-935-3044 or www.minersalley.com.
The conversation around a lot of family dinner tables centers on the day’s accomplishments, college plans, scholastic achievement and the business of the world. Younger family members are pressured to succeed, to prosper financially, to understand the importance of responsibility. How many of us grew up in the shadow of other people’s expectations? This has been the case for Tony Kirby, the love interest in this play.
The conversation around the Sycamore family table, however, is more likely to center on Penny’s new melodrama, how good Essie’s new batch of candy is, or how to get the colored powder in Paul’s new batch of fireworks to inflate a balloon. The dinner itself is likely to be as unlikely as cornflakes and candy. There’s no pressure; just joy in day-to-day living. This family is guided by Grandpa Vanderhof, who decided one day he’d had enough of the corporate path, rode the elevator down and never went back. He spends his days raising snakes, visiting friends and attending graduation ceremonies. He understands the preciousness of life and of living every moment, and encourages his family to do the same.
For instance, his daughter Penny writes plays because someone accidentally delivered a typewriter to the house. Penny’s daughter Essie has been studying dance (to no avail or improvement) for eight years from a “teacher” who just happens to show up at dinnertime every evening. And Mr. De Pinna, who used to deliver ice to the house, has decided to stay and help with the fireworks being built in the basement. These activities bring each of them contentment.
Into this world that glorifies the pursuit of happiness on an individual basis comes the “normal” boyfriend of older daughter Alice. She tries to gently introduce Tony to her family, but there is no “gently” with this bunch. Bring Tony’s formidable father and strait-laced mother into the mix, and a new layer of chaos is introduced. This is a 1937 version of the plot device that pits wacky family vs. normal family, later revisited in shows like LA CAGE AUX FOLLES and THE ADDAMS FAMILY.
Miners Alley has pulled together a Class A cast led by Tim Fishbaugh as Grandpa. Sasha Fisher and Rory Pierce are the second-generation Penny and Paul Sycamore. Their children are Candace Joice as Alice—the normal one—and Jacquie Jo Billings as Essie, the bad but sweet dancer. She is married to Ed (Brandon Palmer), who plays the xylophone as badly as his wife dances. The Kirby clan are represented by Cody Schuyler as Tony and Mike Grittner and Suzanna Wellens as his stuffy parents.
In a creative solution to the many physical demands of the script, Jon Scott-McKean designed a huge table around which the many family activities and meals could be held. Panels that lift up or flip over and drawers that pull out provide hiding places for the equipment for meals and hobbies—a truly creative and highly satisfactory solution that allows for the quick introduction of new scenes. The beautiful vintage clothing supplied by Laura Scoggins adds authenticity to the picture. The audience enjoyed several demonstrations of the pyro being created by Paul and his assistant, Mr. DePinna, in the basement. But beware of the “red fire” exploded on stage. It created a coughing storm that swept through the audience. When Paul brings a skillet up from the basement, cover your nose—it’s coming!
A swift moving, laugh-out-loud homage to an era gone the way of the Model T.
WOW factor: 9