"You Can't Take it With You" ReviewThis is a featured page

Review: Geva's 'You Can't Take it With You' an offbeat charmer

Marcia Morphy is a Rochester-area freelance writer who specializes in the arts.

7:05 PM, Sep 17, 2012
Melissa Rain Anderson plays ballerina wannabe Essie in Geva Theatre Center's You Can't Take it With You.
Do what you love. Love what you do.
That’s the credo for this 1936 stage revival of You Can’t Take it With You, as Geva Theatre Center opens its 40th anniversary season with the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman.

Imagine an eccentric family in which every member does just what he or she pleases without visible means of support. Martin Vanderhof is the leader of the clan. He quit work 35 years earlier, lives the life of leisure and refuses to pay taxes to the IRS.

Anything but normal, his daughter, Penny (Brigitt Markusfeld), writes “awful” plays never published. Her husband, Paul (Skip Greer), is a pyromaniac who makes fireworks in the basement with family friend Mr. DePinna (Ray Salah). Granddaughter Essie (Melissa Rain Anderson) wants to be a ballerina and takes futile lessons from a blustery Russian instructor (Dick St. George), while her xylophone-playing husband (Jim Poulos) designs masks and reprints incendiary slogans.

You Can’t Take it With You is a rare gem, reminiscent of It’s a Wonderful Life — with a mammoth cast and supporting players. Bill Clarke’s realistic and detailed stage set feels like home, and Geva director Mark Cuddy squeezes every square inch of space out of every scene to successfully choreograph the cast of 18 actors and keep them from tripping over one another during the ensuing chaos.

Clearly, Anderson’s Essie has us at hello; you can’t miss the malfunctioning ballerina with the outdated Shirley Temple curls who pirouettes into every scene.

But it’s Robert Vaughn, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. star and an award-winning actor, who takes center stage and captures the irrepressible free spirit of Vanderhof. Vaughn is an absolute joy to watch; he seemingly revels in the family antics and subtly adds credence to the mayhem surrounding him.

Nicole Rodenburg is endearing and charming as Penny’s lovely blond daughter Alice, the only “normal” one in the family, who tumbles head over heels for charismatic Tony Kirby (Rochester native Loren Dunn), the handsome son of her financier Wall Street boss, Mr. Kirby (Robert Rutland).

Sparks fly in Meet the Parents style as the Kirbys come to dinner on the wrong night — making both sides squirm — especially when Markusfeld (Penny) sets up some verbal fireworks: Her free-association parlor game stops the uptight Kirbys in their tracks and causes a riot of laughs for the audience. Naturally, the engagement is called off, but the family dinner is resuscitated during the finale’s A Christmas Carol-style toast.

For that we can all be thankful. From the Depression to the recession: This tale is uplifting enough to believe “you can” take its message to heart.

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soloforever Can't wait!!! 0 Sep 18 2012, 5:12 AM EDT by soloforever
Thread started: Sep 18 2012, 5:12 AM EDT  Watch
This is great. Thank you for posting this.
I was wondering how the opening night went.
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