Sunday, August 31, 2014

You Can't Take It With You

Oh, the joys of a well-made, genuinely funny comedy. Oh, the joys of a solid cast of Broadway stalwarts doing what they do. Oh, the joys of a sold-out theatre rocking with laughter. Oh, the joys of Kaufman and Hart's classic, You Can't Take It With You.

With the thinnest of plots,  Messrs. Kaufman and Hart fill three acts with comic bliss. Tony Kirby loves Alice Sycamore. Alice loves Tony. Tony's family is staid. Alice's is idiosyncratic. Alice's family has Tony's over for dinner. All hell breaks loose. There is never any doubt about where the show is going, but, oh, the fun of getting there. You Can't Take It With You has begot many progeny, but none can touch it for sheer joy.

The new production, opening soon at the Longacre, is already in excellent shape. Kristine Neilsen as Alice's mother is a delight in her essential Kristine Neilsen-ness; Annaleigh Ashford as Alice's sister cements her standing as a superb comic actor; Mark-Linn Baker charms as Alice's slightly befuddled father; Julie Halston nails her role as the drunk actress visiting to hear Alice's mother's play; Fran Kranz is charming as Tony; Byron Jennings and Joanna Day bring the proper gravitas/pompousness and disappointment, respectively, to Tony's parents; Reg Rogers is great fun as the Russian ballet teacher; Patrick Kerr makes a heck of a discus thrower; and most of the other actors are fabulous as well. The only exceptions aren't a big deal. Rose Byrne is a little lost as Alice, but she has time to find her way before the show opens, and while James Earl Jones is an impressive patriarch, and has that amazing voice, he lacks a certain spark, I think. (Though it is possible that I was the only person in that jammed theatre who had the slightest reservation about his performance.)

And then there is that set. Designer David Rockwell's version of the Sycamore living room provides a true feast for the eyes. The walls are jammed with bizarre and wonderful stuff-and-junk as would indeed be gathered by a family of eccentrics over the decades; the room itself is large, warm, and inviting; and the mechanics of the set are just right for what they need to do. I wish I could spend time just wandering the set and enjoying the 12 million absolutely right details.

For a good time, go visit the Sycamores. You won't regret it.

(second row mezz; tdf ticket)

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