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Raleigh Little Theatre Review: You Can't Take It with You at RLT Is a Three-Ring Comic Circus

October 14, 2004 - Raleigh, NC:


Raleigh Little Theatre's rib-tickling rendition of Kaufman and Hart's classic comedy You Can't Take It with You is a three-ring comic circus, with its monkey business superbly orchestrated by longtime RLT artistic director Haskell Fitz-Simons. Fitz-Simons elicits a memorable comic characterization from almost every cast member who treads scenic designer Roger Bridges' magnificently detailed recreation of the living room and dining room areas of Martin Vanderhof's upper West Side Manhattan townhouse, wearing costume designer Vicki Olson's handsome vintage fashions.

Lighting designer Rick Young and sound designers Roger Bridges and Ken Nyren also make sizable contributions to the show's success, But it is the director and cast who expertly extract, refine, and polish the comic nuggets in this 24-karat solid-gold script by incomparable Depression-era comic playwrights Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman.

John T. Hall, one of the grand old men of Triangle theater, adds another laurel to his crown with his bravura performance as that irrepressible free spirit "Grandpa" Martin Vanderhof, who quit work years ago and now leads a life of leisure. Elaine Mesaros is charming as Grandpa's eccentric Penny Sycamore, who alternates between writing (hilariously awful) plays and painting (appallingly hideous) pictures. Craige Goheen is good as Penny's husband, Paul, who manufactures fireworks in the basement; and Jessica Smith and Joel Horton are hilarious as penny's daughter Essie, who wants to be a ballerina, and Penny's simple-minded son-in-law, Ed, who practices his printing by reprinting incendiary far-left slogans on the wrappers for the home-made candy that Essie sells to support them both.

Adrienne Morton is charming as Penny's lovely blonde daughter Alice, who tumbles head over heels for Tony Kirby (Ryan Stevens), the handsome son of her stuffy strait-laced boss, Wall Street financier Mr. Kirby (Scotty Cherryholmes), and his snobbish wife (Amy Flynn). Stevens is good as the heretofore dutiful son on the verge of leaving the family business, and Cherryholmes and Flynn are a hoot as a conservative old married couple whose meeting with Grandpa and the madcap Sycamore clan causes them to question some of their longest-held beliefs.

Alison Lawrence and Collin Beck provide comic relief as Vanderhof's spunky Irish cook and her shiftless boyfriend Donald, Tim Wiest is cute as Mr. DePenna the absent-minded fireworks maker and Penny's sometimes model, Janis Coville is funny as a hard-drinking has-been actress who Penny has invited over to read a script, Phil Crone earns enthusiastic applause for his outrageous antics as Essie's high-strung Russian ballet instructor, and Jo Brown adds a scene-stealing performance as a former Russian grand duchess now reduced to working in a cafeteria. Together, all these crisp comic characterizations make You Can't Take It with You a community-theater comedy to remember.

Raleigh Little Theatre presents You Can't Take It With You Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 14-16 and 20-23, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 17 and 24, at 8 p.m. on RLT's Cantey V. Sutton Main Stage, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $14 Wednesday, $18 Thursday/Sunday, and $20 Friday-Saturday, except $12 student and senior rate for Sunday matinees. 919/821-3111. Note: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive listening devices for the hard of hearing available at all shows. Raleigh Little Theatre: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/youcant.htm. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/Show.asp?id=9527. Internet Movie Database (1938 Film): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0030993/.