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Farley Hall Players show one to ‘Take With You’

Tae Andrews | Monday, April 30, 2007

It’s an eccentric household, to put it nicely. The Farley Hall Players put on a production of “You Can’t Take It With You” Friday and Saturday night in Washington Hall. Set inside the cozy confines of the Sycamore family living room, the play follows a love story between Alice Sycamore (Caitlin Murphy) and Tony Kirby (Steve Iwanski). Unfortunately for Alice, chaos ensues when she brings Tony home to meet her family.

And what a family it is. It’s difficult to decide where to begin when describing this wacky lot. Alice’s impish sister Essie is a self-deceived diva who aspires to be a ballerina. As a result, she spends nearly all of her time onstage practicing her pirouettes with a vapid expression on her face. Her hubby Ed encourages her by clanging away on the xylophone.

Mr. Sycamore (Dan Justice) has the entire house in perpetual danger of going up in flames as the family’s resident tinkerer and subterranean rocket scientist.

Alongside him is Mr. De Pinna (Joe Edmonds), Sycamore’s pot-bellied assistant and harebrained partner in crime, who moves around with a truly unique and strange herky-jerky strut. Maid Rheba (Carly Torres) and her oblivious fiancée Donald (Adam Hembree) also get mixed up with the Sycamores. And then there’s Grandpa Martin Vanderhof, the book-cooking patriarch of the Sycamore clan.

Presiding over all of the madness is mother and playwright Penny Sycamore, who’s fairly harmless but spends much of her time running around dealing with everyone else.

Among some of the other unique characters scrambled into the mix is Miss Wellington, a hard-boozing actress who – despite spending much of her stage time in a dead-to-the-world inebriated coma – manages to pop up for the odd hilarious moment or three.

Will Haley steals the show and hams it up as the bushy-eyebrowed Boris Kolenkhov, Essie’s Russian ballet instructor who is given to impromptu wrestling matches. Finally, the Grand Duchess Olga Katrina (Lis Tuholski) makes an appearance and, if nothing else, should never be accused of being “stingy with the blintzes.”

Some of the show’s highlights include:

u The federal investigation of Grandpa Martin Vanderhof by FBI Agent Jim (Andrew Wright). Looking perfectly poindexter in suspenders, glasses and high flood water pants, the agent begins losing his mind as he loses an argument in which he tries, unsuccessfully, to explain to Grandpa why he must pay his back income taxes.

u An extremely unfortunate game of word association orchestrated by Penny in which Tony Kirby’s parents – the haughty, high-class couple Mr. Anthony Kirby Sr. and Mrs. Miriam Kirby – end up divulging far too much information about both Wall Street and their sex life.

u The return of the federal investigators (played by Nate Forte, Lauren Mangiaforte and Andrew Wright) who stop at nothing in the pursuit of pecuniary justice, including the frisking of an audience member or two in search of hidden contraband. After finding explosives in the house, the entire kit and caboodle ends up getting locked in the slammer.

What makes “You Can’t Take It With You” such a cheeky comedy is that it’s a “Meet the Parents” (or is it “Meet the Fockers?”) type of meet-and-greet. The Sycamore family captures perfectly the “stranger than fiction” feel to the whole affair and the awkward nature of bringing a significant other home for the first time. At times, you can’t help but cringe for the young couple as the insanity unfolds all around them.

As senior director Alyse Kinchen wrote in her notes in the show’s playbill, “I wanted to pick a show that was entertaining, fun to perform, and just an overall great experience for everyone involved.” She certainly succeeded in that endeavor.

Despite the title, it’s clear that audiences took a lot away from “You Can’t Take It With You.”