As Harper Lee stated “You can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family” I bet every one of us has thought/said that at some time in our lives. Your family always knows the best way to embarrass you – especially at the wrong time, and can always be relied on to do something when least expected that will remain seared into your friends’ brains forever. The bad news is that this is no new thing as a trip to the Bridewell Theatre to see George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s You Can’t Take It With You will prove.
Alice Sycamore (Izzi Richardson) is nervous. She has met and fallen in love with Tony Kirby (Graeme Langford) a wonderful man at her office – well he is the son of the president of the company, Anthony W. Kirby (Craig Karpel) – and has decided that it’s time he met her family. For most people, this would be trauma enough but for Alice, it’s even worse as her family is, to put it mildly, a little eccentric. Her mother, Penelope (Dara Seitzman) writes plays, while her father, Paul (Mark Watson Gray) spends most of his time in the basement with Mr. De Pinna (James Cross) making fireworks. Alice’s sister, Essie Carmichael (Sarah Berryman) makes candy for her husband Ed (David Pearson) to sell, while she pursues her dream of one day being a professional ballerina by being trained by White Russian emigree Boris Kolenkhov (Matt Tylianakis). Alice couldn’t imagine a family more different from staid, uptight Wall Street banker Anthony W. Kirby and his wife Miriam (Cathy Abbott). What will happen when the two families meet? Will Alice and Anthony get their happy ever after and how will the dealings between the IRS and Alice’s grandfather Martin Vanderhof (Robert Pennant Jones) affect things?
In the programme notes for You Can’t Take It With You, Director Nick Mouton says that “after directing some serious pieces for SEDOS, I decided to lighten the mood a bit and go for a comedy”, and he certainly did. This lovely play dates back to 1936 but is as fresh, funny and entertaining today as it was over eighty years ago. The Sycamore/Carmichael/Vanderhof family are just wonderful. With the exception of Alice – who seems to have been given the family’s entire allocation of level-headedness – each one of the family is as eccentric as the next. Then there are their friends – Mr De Pinna and Mr Kolenkhov, not to mention The Grand Duchess Olga Katrina (Lily Ann Green) and servants Rheba (Lisa Depuis) and boyfriend Donald (Joe Docherty) who are just as bad. In fact, the entire house sounds like a wonderful place to visit and a complete nightmare to live in. There are two sides to the story as a whole. First, there is the love between Alice and Anthony and then there is also the wonderfully thought-provoking philosophy of the grandfather of the family, Martin Vanderhof.
I’ve seen a couple of productions from SEDOS now and each one of them has really impressed me with the quality of the performances and attention to detail in the staging, and with You Can’t Take it With You, they have delivered another first-rate production. Peter Foster’s multi-level set makes really good use of the Bridewell’s interior layout to create a lovely family home complete with dining table, sofa, snakes, a basement and enough room for Essie to dance around.
The acting was well up to SEDOS’ high standard and I really liked every character in the show. My stand-out favourite both as a character and actor Robert Pennant Jones as family patriarch Martin Vanderhof. Not only does Martin have some wonderful moments, particularly in the second act, but Robert delivers the lines with such conviction that I was actually thinking over what he said as I was getting ready for work this morning and questioning some of my life choices.
Anyhow, despite being a bit of a slow starter, You Can’t Take it With You was a first-rate show delivered in a highly competent and professional way by a great cast. It is a highly entertaining production that left me with a big smile on my face and some lovely memories of my night with the Sycamore/Carmichael/Vanderhof family.
Review by Terry Eastham
Sedos presents a revival of the award-winning 1930s comedy You Can’t Take it With You at the Bridewell Theatre, off Fleet Street, from 10 – 14 April 2018. Written by popular comedy writing duo, Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, the play won the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and was then adapted for the screen, winning the 1938 Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director. The play had a Tony Award-winning revival on Broadway in 2014 starring James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne.
Set in the summer of 1938, New York City, You Can’t Take it With You introduces you to the Sycamores, an eccentric family who live life to the fullest by pursuing their passions – no matter how bizarre. Their routine is disrupted when their daughter Alice wants to bring her new fiancé and his ultra-conservative Wall Street family home for dinner. The brusque Sycamores must straighten up to meet the new in-laws and despite all best-laid plans, mishaps and mayhem ensue.
ESSIE CARMICHAEL | Sarah Berryman
THE GRAND DUCHESS OLGA KATRINA | Lily Ann Green
DE PINNA | James Cross
RHEBA | Lisa Depuis
DONALD | Joe Docherty
PAUL SYCAMORE | Mark Watson Gray
ANTHONY KIRBY | Craig Karpel
MIRIAM KIRBY | Cathy Abbott
TONY KIRBY | Graeme Langford
ED CARMICHAEL | David Pearson
MARTIN VANDERHOF | Robert Pennant Jones
ALICE SYCAMORE | Izzi Richardson
PENNY SYCAMORE | Dara Seitzman
BORIS KOLENKHOV | Matt Tylianakis
WILBUR HENDERSON | Nelson Wan
DIRECTOR | Nick Mouton
PRODUCER | Peta Walmsley
PRODUCTION MANAGER | Andrew Laidlaw
STAGE MANAGER | Rebecca Moran
ASSITANT STAGE MANAGER | Frederica Byron
SET DESIGN | Peter Foster
LIGHTING DESIGN | Laurence Tuerk
MASTER CARPENTER | Andy Hind
COSTUME DESIGN | Andrea Ortiz
FIGHT COORDINATOR | Dan Styles
MUSIC TUTOR | Ben Thiele-Long
COMMITTEE LIAISON & DANCE COORDINATOR| Kimberly Barker
You Can’t Take it With You
Written by | MOSS HART and GEORGE S. KAUFMAN
Tuesday 10 to Saturday 14 April 2018
Evenings at 7.30pm, Saturday matinee at 2.30pm
Bride Lane, off Fleet Street
London EC4Y 8EQ
Box office: www.sedos.co.uk