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Review: CHS’s ‘You Can't Take It With You’

— As father makes fireworks in the basement, xylophone rings through the living room, mom writes her latest play, Essie learns to dance and Grandpa saunters in after a day at the circus. Just a typical day at home for the Sycamore family in 1930s New York City. So what happens when eldest daughter Alice, the “normal one” in the family, brings home the son of a Wall Street executive? Chantilly High School’s production of “You Can’t Take it With You” invites the audience to witness the hilarity that ensues.

Since its Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway debut in 1936, George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s “You Can’t Take it With You” was famously adapted into a Frank Capra film with a cast that included Jimmy Stewart and Lionel Barrymore along with several other Hollywood luminaries.

The day Alice announces to her family that she is engaged to Tony Kirby, vice president of the office where she works, everyone gets ready to host his reserved mother and father for dinner. The Kirbys get into perhaps a bit more than they bargained for.

Matt Calvert and Stephanie Feeback played Tony and Alice, the young lovers who are blissfully unaware that their worlds are about to collide. Calvert was charming as he came to love the family that his fiancée already adored, and played off of their eccentricities magnificently, be it admiring their strange decor or going along with their strange hobbies. Feeback’s devotion to her character showed through her honest love for both parties, and while embarrassed by her family’s quirks, she made it clear that she truly loved them all.

The head of the family, Mr. Vanderhoff, was played by John Downey. His deadpan humor and solemn speech at the end of the play kept the audience engaged during the more serious moments of a nearly farcical comic production. Ed and Essie, played by Josh Lutz and Natalie Spitzel, played off one another brilliantly, whether she was dancing to his xylophone music or he was delivering her candies. Meanwhile, Paul and zany iceman Mr. De Pinna (Chris Knarr and Matt Manalel) spent the show hard at work on their fireworks, in and out every scene, but always managing to leave their mark on the stage, both in gunpowder and hilarity.

Not to be outshined by the actors, the set (designed by Josh Lutz, Drew Pardo, Mia Rickenbach, and Chloe Vasquez) was magnificent — a house as wacky as the family itself. Two wraparound staircases to an upper floor filled with rooms and hallways, a trap door to Mr. Sycamore’s basement firework laboratory, and a foyer dressed with gorgeous stained glass windows and a suit of armor for everyone to hang their hat, it was striking to view and perfectly suited to the production. Lighting dimmed to a lamplit living room in the evening, and student-composed music by Emily Sakowitz and Roshni Gorur set every scene within the era and the context of the production, creating the world of this family and their lives in the 1930s.

By the end of the night, it became clear that although you couldn’t take it with you, simply seeing a single performance of the show at Chantilly High School was a delight, if only for the one evening.