Every family is a little quirky, but Herndon High School brought dysfunction to a whole new level with snakes, fireworks, tax fraud, and ballet dancing in its performance of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s “You Can’t Take It With You” on Nov. 10.
The show, which first opened on Broadway in 1936 and was later made into an Academy Award winning movie, is about living life with no reservations. The story centers around an eccentric family, the Sycamores, consisting almost entirely of over-the-top characters with the exception of Alice, the straight-laced daughter whose seemingly “normal” behavior stands in sharp contrast to the family’s antics. After meeting the love of her life, Alice finds it nearly impossible to reconcile her family with the wealthy and proper one of her fiance, Tony Kirby. The tension reaches its peak when both families get arrested during their first dinner together, tearing the two lovers apart.
Herndon handled this show, which requires excellent chemistry and timing, well. While some of the acting was at times stiff or unbelievable, the overall family dynamic of chaos was well played and comical.
Leading the cast was Alice’s mother, Penny Sycamore, played by Becca Marshall. Marshall handled difficult comedic timing with ease, delivering every line with the correct tone. In addition to perfect line delivery, Marshall commanded attention even when she sat silently in the background with hilarious facial expressions, reactions, and gestures.
The supporting characters of the show were in many ways the most entertaining to watch. Boris Kolenkhov, a Russian ballet instructor and family friend of the Sycamores, was played by Jake Ellis. Ellis’ successful use of a Russian accent elevated the comedy in each scene he appeared in. Another family friend, Mr. De Pinna, played by Sam McCracken, also lit up the stage with his ridiculous antics and played well off the other characters.
While the lighting and sound were at times awkward, unnecessary, or not accurate to the time period, other technical aspects more then made up for any flaws. David Gauntlett and Michael Deffenbaugh’s deep red set was outstanding, consisting of two levels, several doors, and enough furnishings to give the genuine feeling of a 1930’s house.
The costumes, done by Christine Malec and Sidney Lawrence, were also well put together. Nothing looked out of place for the era and there were numerous costume changes which not only made the piece seem more realistic, it also kept the audience’s attention.
The Sycamores in many ways do what we all wish we could; they pursue their passions without reluctance or fear. Herndon succeeded in bringing color and life to the eccentric characters in this show with both praiseworthy acting and technical aspects to produce three acts of well executed comedy.
There will be two final performances next weekend, Nov. 16 and 17 at 7 p.m.