“You Can’t Take It With You” an explosive success

Nathan Tucker, A&E Editor

“Dying is easy, comedy is hard”–so the saying goes. But a sparkling comedy, put on with verve and talent, is worth the effort. Drama’s production of “You Can’t Take It With You” is exactly that: an amiable extravaganza with laughs that last after the auditorium doors swing shut.

The production’s greatest strength is that Drama has already molded its actors into the sort who can carry such an ensemble-centered piece. A lesser company might have seen the supporting roles washed out by exaggerated readings from the leads; here, every cast member can hold their own, everyone equally game and over-the-top. At times this tendency can become overwhelming (a set of eyeballs can only bounce across a stage so fast), but it is more often than not a corralled chaos, offering delightful surprises for the attentive audience.

With such a consistent cast, it is difficult to single out standouts. Props are to be given to Noelle Soucek and Michael Gerardi, who breathe a crucial aura of sincerity into the romantic arc without getting lost in the gags and hijinks. While the entire cast gives outsized performances, Peyton Flake takes the role of Penelope Sycamore as a license to chew scenery–the perfect approach to a raunchy matriarch teetering between elation and unease. The kinetic antics of Rachel Sharp, Ryan Dunn, and Rhea Johnston (as dancer, firework manufacturer, and drunk, respectively) are frequently scene-stealing and help break up the script’s dense thickets of wit. And Casey Van Shaar handily anchors the play’s themes as Mr. Kirby, subtly portraying a mighty change of heart.

The must-see performance, however, belongs to long-time director Jim Fountain, who steps on stage in a major role for the first time in his 40 year career. Fountain plays Grandpa Vanderhof with a dry, yet idealistic humor that brings his dialogue to life. Poised to retire at the year’s end, Fountain reads his Act III monologue with an emotional intent that reaches beyond mere acting. When he says “I’ve had thirty-five years that nobody can take away from me, no matter what they do to the world,” only the numerical detail is fictional.

“You Can’t Take It With You” runs tonight Sept. 4, Saturday Sept. 5, Thursday Sept.10, and Saturday Sept. 12. All shows start at 7 p.m.