Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
Flint Community Players kicked off spring a bit early Thursday with the hilarious and wacky Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman comedy You Can’t Take It With You. A cast of familiar faces took the stage and had the crowd giggling right from the start. These folks were having too much fun!
Set in the 1930s, often thought of as a time of dour depression for both the economy and the populace, this zany story focuses on a family much more intent on pursuing their dreams than chasing money.
Harry Mitchell solidly anchors this tale in the hysterically logical role of Martin “Grandpa” Vanderhof. With a philosophy of “enjoy yourself”, he quit his corporate job 30 plus years ago and hasn’t paid a dime of income tax since. He frequents graduations, plays darts and revels in the family activities that swirl around him.
His daughter seems to have inherited Grandpa’s eccentricity. Tomoko Miller commands the role of Penny Sycamore who is both mother to the brood and creativity connoisseur. A fragmented playwright (she has many scripts underway) and sometime painter (complete with smock and beret), she delights in whatever makes her family happy. Miller’s voice masterfully moves from sweet matron to longshoreman in the blink of an eye.
Of course love gets in the way when young Alice Sycamore (Caroline Collins) falls madly for her boss Tony Kirby (Philip Kautz). Although these two were a bit slow getting started Thursday, maybe it was their attempt to convey the mismatch that Alice believes exists between her family and the Wall Street Kirbys. Hard as she tries to keep them apart, or to craft a façade, the two families do collide with interesting results.
A host of other madcap characters keep the action moving fast and furiously. There’s Paul Sycamore (Ian Thomas) in the basement building fireworks – he emerges in a host of blown-up states that are clever and amazing – and his sidekick Mr. DePinna (Gene Pincomb II) a drab little fellow who delivered ice some years ago and just stayed.
Penny’s other daughter Essie Carmichael (Lauren Kondrat) loves to dance but is awful at it as she moves to music played on a xylophone by her husband Ed (Michael Poehner). (We must say that Poehner manages the pantomime of this instrument very convincingly!)
Essie’s ersatz ballet master is Mr. Kolenkhov (Michael Kelly), a Russian expat with definite views on injustice in society and world affairs. He is boisterous, a gentle giant who is joined in the third act by another Russian refugee, the grand duchess Olga Katrina (Kay Kelly) who now works in a Times Square diner. Both Kellys bring fun and comically accented Russian (Olga’s mixes in a bit of Brooklyn) to their roles.
Proper and prone to stomach issues, Tony’s Wall Street father, Arthur, is played with prune-faced stiffness by Jesse Glenn. As his wife, Terrie Titmus-Harris brings a mixture of pomp and pout to this role of the aghast socialite.
Lest we forget, Crystal Dillard is fresh and feisty as the housekeeper/cook who works magic with corn flakes and mystery meat while dodging Donald’s (Justin Wetenhall) advances. And Matt Kehoe plays two parts, but the best remembered will be his frustrating interchange as the IRS agent trying to explain to Grandpa why he owes the government money.
A different local celebrity makes a cameo appearance every night in this show. We spotted Mayor Dayne Walling Thursday in the role of the arresting officer, Mac.
If you haven’t guessed it by now, the stage at the Tom and Bea Nobles Performance Hall is full! Director Shelly Hoffman has done a terrific job of coordinating all these characters on stage without losing the intended focus.
You Can’t Take It With You has a lesson for our times – life is supposed to be fun. If it isn’t, we get sick, or angry, or unhappy and after all, we really do ultimately leave it all behind. Performances continue March 7, 8, 14, & 15 at 8:00 pm and March 9 & 16 at 2:30 pm. For more information contact the box office at 810-235-6963 or online at www.flintcommunityplayers.com