Classic Play to Be Performed by Little Egg Theatre Co.Message of ‘You Can’t Take It with You’ Still Rings True
Long before “Gene Simmons Family Jewels” or “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” there was a popular show about a dysfunctional family: “You Can’t Take It with You.” Penned by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, it opened on Broadway in December 1936 and later went on to become a movie directed by the legendary Frank Capra and starring the iconic Jimmy Stewart.
“You Can’t Take It with You” is still often performed, as it will be this weekend by the Little Egg Theatre Co. at the Frog Pond Elementary School at 305 Frog Pond Rd. in Little Egg Harbor. Shows will be held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 11, 12 and 13, at 7 p.m., and on Sunday, Oct. 14, at 2:30 p.m. Tickets, which are a mere $10, can be purchased at the Tuckerton Seaport (cash or check only), online at littleeggtheatreco.com or at the door starting a half hour before the curtain.
It is definitely unfair to compare “You Can’t Take It with You” with reality TV programs. The play is highly intelligent and witty, so much so that it won the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Still, talk about a dysfunctional family! The clan living in a somewhat rundown New York City house is headed by “Grandpa” (Paul Nixon), who, after fighting and scratching in the business world, decided to just relax. He’s spent decades collecting snakes and stamps, playing darts and attending college commencements. One thing he hasn’t bothered doing is to pay income tax – he is 24 years in arrears, something that hasn’t pleased the government, as an IRS agent, Henderson (Jeff Ciborowksi), tells him.
Grandpa’s daughter, Penelope Sycamore (Mary Henry), has been painting portraits and writing plays for years – and not completing any project. Her husband, Paul (Jim Henry), spends his time manufacturing fireworks that he sells at a loss. One of Penelope’s daughters, Essie Carmichael (Lucille Paccione), has been studying ballet for eight years, even though her teacher, the mad Russian Boris Kolenkhov, thinks she “stinks!” Essie’s husband, Ed (Rick Spence), likes to print – anything – and play the xylophone. They have a live-in maid, Rheba (Aline Bernstein), who has a live-in boyfriend, Donald (Fred Halde), who is on relief and can’t stand having to wait in line for 30 minutes to get his check because it breaks up his week. Then there’s Mr. De Pinna (Dave Farmer), who assists Paul with the fireworks. De Pinna showed up at the house one day to speak with Paul and never left in the following eight years.
What a crew, especially when visitors such as an extremely drunken actress named Gay Wellington (Rosemary Molloy), the aforementioned mad Russian part-time ballet instructor and full-time mooch Kolenkhov, and the Grand Duchess Olga Katrina (Kathy Devitt), “a cousin of the Czar” who is now a waitress selling baked beans at Childs Restaurant, all join the menagerie.
There’s only one seemingly normal member of the family, Essie’s younger sister Alice (Erin Mathis), who is a secretary in the Wall Street firm of Kirby and Co.
Therein lies the problem. Alice falls in love with Tony Kirby (Neil Goldstein), the boss’s son. She is convinced that Tony’s ultra-straitlaced parents (Ron Kleinfield and Julie Shutz) will never accept her family and, thus, her. They’re going to be paying a visit soon, and she wants everything to be perfect, with all in the household on their absolute best behavior. And then Mr. and Mrs. Kirby show up an evening early for dinner!
Uh oh. Talk about a clash of personalities, of cultures, of just about everything! And it certainly doesn’t help when three federal agents (Ciborowski and Emma and Libby Neuweiler) show up to arrest Ed and end up arresting everybody in the house, just before the fireworks in the basement explode!
Will Alice ever be accepted by Mr. and Mrs. Kirby? Will she and Tony be married? Will the entire bunch go to jail? Will Grandpa ever pay his income tax?
You’ll have to attend a LETCO performance of the classic play to find out.
One thing is sure: This show is a hell of a lot funnier than “Family Jewels” or “Keeping Up.” And it has a message that a lot of people in this run-until-you-drop society could probably stand to hear.
After all, as Grandpa tells Mr. Kirby, “You’ve got all the money you need. You can’t take it with you.”