Fresh out of the garden
By Paul Atreides Author, playwright Theatre critic at EatMoreArtVegas.com
Chatting in the lobby before curtain last evening, I commented to a friend that it seemed an odd choice to pull the Moss Hart / George S. Kaufman moldy-oldy You Can’t Take It With You out of mothballs. But the opening night for this 1937 Pulitzer Prize winner at Las Vegas Little Theatre (LVLT) was pretty full. Which is a good thing.
Then, much to my pleasant surprise, under the direction of Alex Bassett, this is a timely and charming production. It feels fresh because the subject matter of learning to enjoy life instead of being a slave to it, the social class clashes, and arguments over governing styles are things we see in today’s world.
Bassett has directed this in the broad comedic style of its time: a bit over the top.
The women rule the stage. Monica Johns as Penny Sycamore, Tate Burton-Robinson as Miss De Pinna, Mary Rose Stark as Alice Sycamore, Anita Bean as Miriam Kirby, Shana Brouwers as Kay Wellington, and Barbara Nolan as Grand Duchess Olga Katrina are the standouts in this capable ensemble cast of nineteen actors.
Johns, Burton-Robinson, Brouwers, and Nolan brought a wonderful sense of zany fun and great timing to their roles. Stark kept the flavor of the style yet still managed to blend into the overall as the only rather sensible member of the Sycamore family. Bean’s ability, as the uptight Miriam Kirby, to use a simple glance or shift in body language and get the laugh without uttering a word is unmatched.
Even though the third act wrap-up bogs slightly, which can be blamed on the script, the play still moves at a good clip. Despite two short intermissions, the whole comes in at a bit over two hours.
As always, Ron Lindblom provides a beautiful setting with precisely detailed period decorations by Bette Kennedy. Abby Stroot surprises with her costume choices by bringing a bit of history into the production by donning the characters of Penny Sycamore and Miss De Pinna in what were called “trousers” at the time. Despite Eleanor Roosevelt wearing them to an official function in 1933, women in pants didn’t become acceptable in “polite society” until the mid-century.
Despite the eighty-seven-year age of the play, LVLT’s production tastes like it was picked out of the garden and put right on the plate. Go, give this zany salad a taste.
What: You Can’t Take It With You
When: 8 p.m. Friday - Saturday; 2 p.m. Sundays through March 19
2 p.m. Saturday, March 11
Where: Las Vegas Little Theatre-Mainstage, 3920 Schiff Drive
Tickets: $30 (702-362-7996; www.lvlt.org)
Grade: ***** Irresistible
Producer: Las Vegas Little Theatre; Director: Alex Bassett; Set Design: Ron Lindblom; Lighting Design: Ginny Adams; Costume Design: Abby Stroot; Sound Design: Alex Bassett; Stage Manager: Morgan Johnson