Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

You Can't Take It with You
Hale Centre Theatre
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's reviews of Noises Off, Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook and Liberace!

Mark Kleinman and Brandi Bigley
Photo by Nick Woodward-Shaw / Hale Centre Theatre
Just about everyone has that one relative who's a little bit different. But what if your entire family were a bit odd and you felt like you were the only sane one in the group? That's the basic premise for the classic comedy You Can't Take It with You which is about to celebrate its 80th birthday of originally opening on Broadway and is currently receiving a lovely production from the Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert.

You Can't Take It with You centers on the madcap Sycamore family. Daughter Alice, the only relatively normal one in the family, has fallen in love with the young and wealthy businessman Tony Kirby. But can their engagement stand up to the major differences between their families? Alice's eccentric clan is a wacky group that doesn't work, eats cornflakes for dinner, and nonchalantly goes about their lives in a carefree way, spending their days on hobbies they aren't really good at but acting as if they are tops in their field.

Alice's father is a fireworks hobbyist who builds explosives in the basement, her mother is a horrible playwright, and her sister is an even worse ballerina, plus there is a group of hangers on including the ice delivery man who made a delivery to the house eight years ago and never left. Tony's conservative and slightly snobby family is well mannered and professional. His father is the president of his own Wall Street company and his mother is extremely prim and proper. Can the uptight Kirby family learn to let go and enjoy life to the fullest, thus ensuring a happy ending for Alice and Tony?

Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman's Pulitzer Prize winning comedy is a light endeavor with an ending you can see coming from miles away, but it's also filled with plenty of larger than life characters, big laughs, and even fireworks—both real and romantic. Kaufman and Hart have created lovely characters and paint both families as ones who truly love and care for each other—they are just like oil and water when they first meet. There is an abundance of silliness and chaos but also a deep sense of kindness across the Sycamore and Kirby families, as well as plenty of love and warm moments that are completely free of cynicism.

Director Cambrian James has assembled a cracker jack cast who perfectly play up the peculiarities of their characters yet never let the silly nature of the roles go over the top. They inhabit their roles with abundance, conviction and clarity, making for endearing portrayals.

Mark Kleinman is exceptional as Alice's grandfather Martin Vanderhof, the soft spoken voice of reason. Kleinman instills the part with plenty of warmth and good nature as the family patriarch whose words of wisdom and thought out actions hold the family together. Brandi Bigley is simply lovely as Alice Sycamore. She expertly gets across the conflicted feelings Alice has at being stuck between the man she loves and the family she feels protective of and cares about, and also does well in portraying the embarrassment Alice also often feels about them. She and Kelton White, as Tony Kirby, form a winning, natural couple, full of passion and fire, that you root to succeed. White also is adept at displaying the joy Tony feels whenever he is around Alice and her family.

Laura Soldan and John Janezic are very good as Alice's parents with each providing plenty of warmth to these wacky characters. Soldan is delivering a simply joyous performance. Brittni Foskey Miner is an absolute riot as Alice's sister Essie, the would-be ballerina who is continually prancing and posing about the Sycamore home as she rehearses new dance positions. We learn she's been practicing for eight years and hasn't shown any improvement at all and Miner's crazy movement and even crazier positions provide non-stop laughs. Jeff Deglow is equally good as Essie's husband Ed, who plays the xylophone as badly as his wife dances.

In smaller roles, Ami Porter and Ned Peterson convey an appropriate sense of refinement to the parts of Anthony's parents along with perfectly shocking, and comical, expressions from what they encounter once they enter the Sycamore home. Matthew R. Harris has a hilarious accent and humorous facial hair as Essie's Russian ballet instructor Boris Kolenkov. Both he and Wayne Peck, as Mr. De Pinna the iceman who has been hanging around the house for the last eight years, have some great lines that get big laughs due to the expert line delivery from these two talented actors. Kinsey Peotter, Aaron Ford, and Charity Johansen round out the main cast with each creating fun, realistic characters.

James' quick pacing provides a breathless, effervescent air to the entire show that almost makes you giddy. Brian Daily's set design and the abundant props by McKenna Carpenter and Monica Christiansen instill a chaotic sense to the Sycamore living room. Mary Atkinson's superb costumes provide some knock-out dresses for Bigley and Porter as well as colorful, period perfect outfits for the entire cast. Jeff A. Davis' lighting is unobtrusive and bright for the many daytime scenes and evocative for the nighttime ones.

While You Can't Take It with You may not have an intricate plot or a deep meaning it does touch upon the basic life lessons of how we should learn to let go and enjoy the simple things in life and how we need to focus on what makes us happy in order to truly get the most out of the lives we live. With an exceptional cast, clear direction, and impressive creative elements, Hale's production highlights these simple lessons while also making the most out of the chaotic silliness and wacky characters that Kaufman and Hart so expertly created.

The Hale Centre Theatre production of You Can't Take It with You runs through November 15th, 2016, with performances at 50 W. Page Avenue in Gilbert. Tickets can be ordered at or by calling (480) 497-1181

Written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman
Directed by Cambrian James
Set Technical Director: Brian Daily
Costume Designer: Mary Atkinson
Lighting Designer: Jeff A. Davis
Wigs & Make-Up: Cambrian James
Props: McKenna Carpenter & Monica Christiansen
Sound Design: Justin Peterson

Mark Kleinman: Martin Vanderhof
Laura Soldan: Penelope Sycamore
John Janezic: Paul Sycamore
Brandi Bigley: Alice Sycamore
Brittni Foskey Miner: Essie Carmichael
Jeff Deglow: Ed Carmichael
Kelton White: Tony Kirby
Ned Peterson: Anthony W. Kirby
Ami Porter: Miriam Kirby
Matthew R. Harris: Boris Kolenkov
Kinsey Peotter: Rheba
Aaron Ford: Donald
Wayne Peck: Mr. De Pinna
Charity Johansen: Gay Wellington / Olga Katrina
Justin Howell: Wilbur C. Henderson / G-Man
Justin Peterson: G-Man

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