Bay City Players Revisit the Comedy Classic YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Theatre,   From Issue 806   By: Robert E Martin

05th March, 2015     0

Dysfunctional families often drive the American theatre – think of the many plays with frustrated husbands and shrewish wives; those miserable children and impossible in-laws – and without doubt, the great American play You Can’t Take It With You is undergoing a welcomed revival at Bay City Players, as they prepare for their own treatment and take upon this American classic.

The play itself is perhaps unique in the annals of Broadway for portraying a comprehensively happy and fun-loving clan known as the Sycamores, who achieve a level of eccentricity that makes oddball kin like the Mitfords and the Sitwells seem relatively run-of-the-mill.

You Can’t Take It With You premiered on Broadway in 1936 and won the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Drama; and was adapted to the screen, where it also won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director.

For Director Susan Ross there are many qualities that she feels distinguishes You Can’t Take it With You within the lexicon of American theatre that continue to make it an engaging production for contemporary audiences.

You Can’t Take It With You is the winner of the 1937 Pulitzer Prize and is a classic American stage comedy that blends elements of farce, slapstick, humor, social commentary and romance together with a dash of optimism about the human condition,” she explains. “First staged in December, 1936, at a time when the United States was only beginning to recover from the Great Depression, You Can’t Take It With You was the third play written by the legendary team of George S. Kaufman & Moss Hart, the most successful collaborators in the history of the American theatre.”

In the upcoming Bay City Players production, John Tanner portrays Grandpa Martin Vanderhof; the patriarch of the family, who believes one should spend his time living life. Vanderhof’s daughter, Penny Sycamore, spends her time writing plays and is portrayed by Laurene Franjione. Her husband Paul, played by Doug Schnabel, enjoys tinkering and building fireworks in his basement with Mr. De Pinna (Jerry Gwizdala) who one delivered ice to the family.  They have two children, Essie Carmichael & Emily Haubenstricker, who enjoys making candy and dancing ballet. Her husband Ed (Paul Oslund) enjoys printing on his press and playing the xylophone. Their youngest daughter Alice – Terese Mauch – works at Kirby & Company and is engaged to Tony Kirby (Olexiy Kryvych) who is son of the President of Kirby & Company.

“Mr. and Mrs. Kirby are very straight-laced,” continues Susan, “and played by Janet Dixon & John McPeak. Other characters include Rheba (Tara Khan) and Donald (Cameron Pichan); Mr Kolenchov (Gordon Levine); Gay Wellington (Judy Miller); Mr Henderson (Robert Graczyk) The Grand Duchess (Lori Libka) and the G-Men, performed by David Newsham & Justice Garcia, so there is a relatively sizable cast to weave the various twists and turns of the plotline around.”

Seeing as this production debuted in the 1930s, does Susan feel it holds up well for contemporary audiences? “I believe it does,” she asserts, “because it holds true today as it did in the 1930s. You can amass all the wealth in the world, but if it makes you unhappy, what is the point?  After all, you can’t take it with you!”

As for the more challenging components of staging this latest production, Susan references the task of fitting all the characters on stage. “This is a fairly large cast and at certain parts of the story they are all on stage together, especially during scenes where chaos ensues.”

Finally, are there any themes or elements within the script that Susan is trying to emphasize and bring out as a director?

“Many of us go through life living up to the expectations of others,” she reflects. “As a parent I have always encouraged my children to find a career that will make them money; but I feel a bit hypocritical, because as I get older I realize that doing something you love and that makes you happy is more important than making lots of money.”

“Grandpa Vanderhof understands the preciousness of life,” she concludes. “He pursues his own interests, his own forms of fulfillment. He encourages others to follow their dreams and not submit to the will of others.”

Written by George S. Kaufman & Moss Hart, this team were experts at pitching the perfect screwball; and You Can’t Take It With You is that rare show that manages to be both genuinely funny and honestly heartwarming, without much recourse to the saccharine or soppy. The play – like the song the character Ed plunks on his xylophone as Essie dances – is indeed an ode to joy

The Bay City Players production of ‘You Can’t Take It With You’ runs March 13-15 and March 19-22nd at Bay City Players, 1214 Columbus Ave. in Bay City.  Tickets are available by going to or phoning 989-893-5555.




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