Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s You Can’t Take It With You from 1937 could be termed an old chestnut; it’s also a classic comedy, certainly the forbearer of many of today’s TV sitcoms, replete with zany stock characters and contrived, hilarious strings of events that pile up the laughs. It’s often produced by high school kids, and even then it’s entertaining.
It’s been staged twice locally over the past year (by CCM and the Showboat Majestic), but that doesn’t mean the Cincinnati Playhouse’s current production is repetitive. In fact, it’s a fine demonstration of how well the show works with a cast of actors who are the right ages and have the necessary comedic chops. This cast squeezes every last drop of humor from the clever script about an offbeat family of “charming, lovable people” whose “normal” daughter fears will ruin her potential marriage to the son of the affluent, conservative owner of the Wall Street company where she works.
Of course, it’s the oddballs who prove to be the sane ones and love wins out.
There are a lot of fireworks — metaphorically, to be sure, and literally (the Sycamores have an explosive fireworks shop in the basement of their quaint and quirky home, beautifully realized on the Playhouse’s Marx stage) — and the show has a lovely moral about life being pretty simple if you merely relax and have fun, a message that resonates with contemporary audiences.
Joneal Joplin is avuncular and jocular as the family’s grandfather, and Carol Schultz is the delightfully daffy, slightly off-kilter mother. Look for amusing comic portraits from Stephanie Cozart (an aspiring ballerina), Anderson Matthews (her expansive Russian instructor), Scott Schafer (the fireworks guy) and local actress Amy Warner (as a drunk actress). The laughs are predictable but delivered with such relish that even the most cynical theatergoer will be amused.
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