A typical scene in the Sycamore house. Photo: Gen Bristol
by Anne Thompson
This past Friday I attended the HHS Footlighters’ autumn production, You Can’t Take It With You, directed by Bryan Smith and produced by Footlighters advisor Bill Hammond. The three-act comedywas written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. It seems a huge disservice to summarize a play, as it is the furtive glances and twisting facial expressions that truly breathe life into a play. But to give credit where credit is due, I shall do my best.
Thirty-five years ago, New York City resident Martin Vanderhof (Thom Mellert) was a businessman caught up in business life. He was riding up to a meeting in an elevator one day when enlightenment struck: he decided to go back down instead, leaving his life of business for one of simple pleasures…
… He maintained his home, where he now lives with his playwright daughter, Penelope Sycamore (Kelsie Hogue); her explosives-obsessed husband, Paul Sycamore (Xavier Stone); their daughters Essie (Olivia Zerphy), a candy maker and aspiring ballerina, and her younger sister Alice (Kelly Gaudet); Essie’s xylophone-playing, amateur printer husband, Ed (Connor O’Leary); housekeeper Rheba (Clara Lipfert) and her beau Donald (Jean-Luc Beaubien); and Mr. De Pinna (Nick Graver), an iceman who happened to stop by the house and just stayed. We also meet Henderson (Jack Higgins), a most frustrated IRS agent, and a rather intoxicated actress, Gay Wellington (Jenevra Wetmore).
Donald serenades Rheba. Photo: Gen Bristol.
Each resident of the Sycamore house pursues his or her interests, with no concern for the practical world. The exception is Alice, who works as a secretary for Tony Kirby (Jeff Polidor), the young vice president of his father’s banking firm. Alice and Tony are in love and would like to marry, but Alice realizes that her family and Tony’s are intrinsically different. Tony and Alice arrange for the Kirbys to come over to the Vanderhof house for dinner to meet Alice’s family. Tony deliberately tells his parents to come the day before so that they will see the Sycamores as they really are, in all their crazy glory, instead of when they are prepared for the visit. Tony’s hope is that his parents will see what a truly successful—albeit not financially—and happy family is like.
The plan appears to result in disaster: Essie’s eccentric émigré Russian dancing instructor (Charlie Collison) wrestles staid Mr. Kirby (Mike Lion) to the floor, Mrs. Kirby (Clio Doyle) reveals rather a bit too much about their personal life, illegal fireworks explode, and the G-Man, Jill, and Mac (Dan Davis, Kendra Comstock, and Emma Burnham respectively) arrive and arrest everyone. Nevertheless, all is well that ends well, as a different playwright would say. Tony’s father eventually sees the real value of the Sycamore way, and the young couple’s marriage seems secured over a scrumptious dinner of blintzes served by ex-Grand Duchess Olga Katrina (Rachel Margolis).
I must say that I entered the theater with high expectations, as past Footlighters productions I’ve seen were most impressive. I was not disappointed: You Can’t Take It With You was quite a success. It was very evident that both cast and crew put a tremendous amount of time and effort into staging a wonderful performance of what is perhaps one of the greatest thoroughly American comedies. The vivid character portrayals, the strong punch lines, and a definite impression that the cast members were enjoying themselves just as much as the audience all contributed to make You Can’t Take It With You entirely worth seeing.
Kolenkhov helps the Grand Duchess prepare to cook dinner. Photo: Gen Bristol
The unsung heroes of the theater, the understudies, must also be mentioned. They, too, must master their parts, but they do not often get the spotlight. If it was not for their hard work and dedication, the plays would not be possible, as there is always the chance that an actor will, in one way or another, be incapable of performing. In this vein, the crew must also be recognized. The witty sound effects, effective lighting, whimsical props, beautifully detailed set, and time period-perfect costumes added the perfect flair to make this play truly a show. Even the swing style music played during the very efficient scene changes provided the audience with just the right air of a now long-gone era.
Perhaps the most relevant message to take from this play as we face the trials and stress of high school and the college application process is to always remember to keep our priorities straight, pursing our passions and interests at all times, because after all, we really can’t take it with us, so why should we settle for something that will make us anything less than happy? But please note: any type of firecracker, bottle rocket, missile, sky rocket, reloadable aerial shells, handheld fountains, and any devices that produce solely smoke are illegal in New Hampshire.