THEATER REVIEW: “You Can’t Take It With You”

Most of us probably claim some measure of familial nuttiness, but your family is probably nothing like the gang in Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s “You Can’t Take It With You.”

Let’s see, there’s Grandpa Martin Vanderhof (Jim Chovick), who has never paid income tax and now spends his time going to college commencements and circuses, throwing darts, collecting snakes and spouting off about how to be happy.

His daughter Penny (Deborah Gilmour Smyth) paints (badly) and took up writing plays about a decade ago when a typewriter was delivered to the house by mistake. She does that badly too, but nowhere near as wretchedly as her daughter Essie Carmichael (Lauren King Thompson) dances ... when she’s not busy making candy.

Penny’s husband Paul (Steve Gunderson) makes fireworks in the cellar (with noisy and smoky results) along with cohort Mr. De Pinna (Danny Campbell), who used to be the family’s iceman.

That’s just part of the group, but you get the idea. The 1936 comedy by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman won the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for drama and ran two years on Broadway, and now it’s getting a sparkling production through March 22 at Lamb’s Players Theatre.

On Mike Buckley’s meticulously detailed living-room set, this large, loony, noisy family plays out its life, bothering no one and wishing to be given the same courtesy. “All we want is to be happy in our own way,” says Grandpa.

There’s only one small problem: the lone relatively sane member of the family, Alice (Megan Carmitchel), has a regular office job and a normal boyfriend she wants to marry. That would be Tony Kirby (Jesse Abeel), son of go-getter businessman Mr. Kirby (John Rosen) who hates his job and raises expensive orchids as a hobby.

Mrs. Kirby (Cynthia Gerber) is extremely prim and proper – though her professed hobby of spiritualism gives pause.

How can Alice introduce her family to the Kirbys without scotching the wedding plans?

Oh yes, there’s another small problem: IRS guy Wilbur C. Henderson (Jeffrey Jones) comes sniffing around, wanting Grandpa’s 22 years of back taxes. But Grandpa has an eminently logical response: “They wouldn’t know what to do with it if I gave it to them.”

It’s tough to argue with that.

I’d be here all night if I wrote about every actor (this is a huge cast). Let me just name the ones I haven’t named yet and assure you that every character is brilliantly written and just as brilliantly played in this looniest of all American plays: Andréa Agosto, Jon Lorenz, Bryan Barbarin, John Polhamus, Eileen Bowman, Brian Rickel and C. Heath.

Kudos also to the tech team: Nathan Peirson, lighting; Jemima Dutra, costumes and Robert Smyth, sound design.

Nothing this family does makes an iota of sense by normal standards. But consider this overarching fact: They are all happy and doing exactly what they want to do.

Can’t argue with that, either. So put on your happy hat and get on over to Lamb’s for this great American classic.

The details

“You Can’t Take It With You” plays through March 29 at Lamb’s Players Theatre, 1142 Orange Ave., Coronado, California.

Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 4 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.

Tickets: (619) 437-6000 or HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.