Review: Kaufman, Hart comedy classic makes for a delightful evening

Mother’s Day has passed, but do mom a favor and take her over to see Schenectady Civic Players “You

Mother’s Day has passed, but do mom a favor and take her over to see Schenectady Civic Players “You Can’t Take it With You” anyway. Director Jeffrey Scott has taken all the right steps to make this zany Kaufman and Hart comedy a theatrical evening full of fun. His musical design is a treasure, with rags and spritely tunes from the 1920s and ’30s. And Scott’s inventive curtain call is worth the price of a ticket.

The set, masterfully rendered by Duncan Morrison, won spontaneous applause as the red velvet proscenium curtain came up. The set is the living room of the Sycamore family, a collection of harmless misfits, and it is as delightfully eclectic as they are.

There is Martin Vanderhof, Grandpa, joyfully played by John Noble. Grandpa quit Wall Street a few decades ago and now collects snakes, goes to college commencements and visits the zoo on a regular basis. He also hasn’t paid his federal income taxes in more than 30 years. Then there’s Penny Sycamore (Rita Russell) who writes plays about brothels and monasteries. She writes plays because a typewriter was accidentally delivered to the house eight years ago.

Paul Sycamore (Kevin Scholz), her husband, makes firecrackers (expect some spectacular excitement in the second act). He is abetted by Mr. DePinna (Jason J. Biszick), an iceman who came to deliver the ice and never left. Into this mix, Scott has placed veteran actor Dick Harte as Boris Kolenkhof, a fiery Russian dance instructor and know-it-all. Harte gives a memorable comic performance.

Cameo performances by Pat Hoffman, the drunken actress Gay Wellington, and Pat Brady, the czarist noblewoman Olga Katarina who is now a waitress at Child’s restaurant, are equally memorable. Bill Hickman offers a brief but comically acted turn as an income tax man, Henderson.

Serious theater-goers should make no mistake, there is no subtlety of character development here, but the book doesn’t call for such things. And Scott has allowed the actors to play their characters as broadly as the script demands. If it is predictable that the two young lovers (Alice, played by Cathryn Salamone and Tony, played by Michael Rzepka) will get together in the end, the ride to that end is still a joy. If it is predictable that Mr. Kirby (John Massaroni), Tony’s stodgy father, will eventually abandon his Wall Street-fueled indigestion and come to embrace the Sycamores’ manic life-style, that’s OK, too.

Rounding out the cast are Jennifer Van Iderstyne (Essie), Felicia Copeland (Rheba), Lee Waddell (Ed), Kamar Elliott (Donald), Jean T. Carney (Mrs. Kirby), Mark Cieslak (Man) and Lonnie Honsinger (Jim).

Costumes by Joseph Fava are period perfect, colorful and fun.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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