The Column Online



Written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman

Granbury Theatre Company

Director – Luke Hunt
Assistant Director – Mia Cree Washington
Scenic Design – Nicholas Graves
Costume Design – Drenda Lewis
Lighting Design – David Broberg
Sound Design – Kyle Hoffman
Propmaster – Gaylene Carpenter
Charge Artist – Kerri Pavelick
Technical Director – Kelani Morrissette
Stage Management – Stormy Lee

Penelope Sycamore – Kathy Lemons
Essie Carmichael – Chelsea Harp
Rheba – Brittaneé Francois-Hearne
Paul Sycamore – Haden Capps
Mr. De Pinna – Jarrett Self
Ed Carmichael – Andy Alamo
Donald – Joshua Emmanuel McRae Davis
Martin Vanderhof – Greg Doss
Alice Sycamore – Stephanie Simmons
Henderson – Avis Agunbiade
Tony Kirby – Jack Snyder
Boris Kolenkhov – Jeff Meador
Gay Wellington – Barbara Rose
Anthony W. Kirby – Nathan Early
Miriam Kirby – Michelle Newman
Agents – Caitlyn Nettles, Carrie Reading
The Gran Duchess Olga Katrina – Drenda Lewis

Reviewed Performance: 9/29/2018

Reviewed by Eric Bird, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

We all seem to have that family member who is so out there that normal situations quickly become awkward and embarrassing. Imagine a whole family of those people, and you have “You Can’t Take It With You.” The play first opened on Broadway in 1936 and has since gone on to win the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, become adapted for a popular film, and be one of the most produced shows at the high school level. “You Can’t Take It With You” tells the story of one odd family and their loving yet completely normal daughter who struggles to reconcile her love for her weird family with her love for a rich man from a completely normal and unaccepting family. Hilarity ensues as the two families collide and fireworks literally explode.

The scenic design by Nicholas Graves was phenomenal. There was attention to detail on every piece that was on the stage. The play is set in the Vanderhof-Sycamore-Carmichael home and the set worked perfectly to frame the characters. There was a living room area with a couch and chair, a dining room area, and doors that led to the kitchen, upstairs, and out the front door. Each of these portions of the stage were very well used. The walls were green with white trimmings and covered with pictures and an eclectic array of collectibles to show the family and their eccentricity. Since the play is set entirely in the living room, structuring the setting was crucial. Graves successfully pulled this off.

Drenda Lewis designed the costumes for this show. She made the costumes historically accurate and thorough. Paul Sycamore and Mr. De Pinna wore rough working clothes with sturdy aprons that were constantly covered in ash and soot from their crazy experiments. Essie danced around in period-appropriate dresses or tutus, and the Russian immigrant Boris Kolenkhov wore a cravat and sash to visually portray his different background. Alice wore simple but elegant dresses, perfect for her work as an office assistant. Everyone had a complete wardrobe to really immerse you in the family-at-home feel of the show.

The lighting needed for this show mandated skill and talent and David Broberg managed this well. Since the play is set entirely in the living room of a house, the lighting seemed simple. Broberg made sure to illuminate the setting well, with full lights for the day when the family gathers, and dimmer lights at night when the young couple returns from their date. I appreciate how Broberg managed to dim the lights for the night but keep all the action on stage visible. While this lighting was straightforward, Broberg had the interesting challenge of using lights to portray fireworks. At different times we saw colored lights shine on the face of Mr. De Pinna as he sampled a new powder for the rockets or saw an array of flashing lights when someone accidently stumbled into where the fireworks were stored. I’m not sure how Broberg did it, but he created very real visuals of fireworks on stage.

The sound design by Kyle Hoffman worked well in the show. From the swing style music of the 1930’s to the sound of fireworks going off, the sounds supplemented the performance and added to the comedic effect. The timing was especially good, with the explosion of a rocket timed well with a character on stage lighting a match.

The eccentricities of the family presented the opportunity for eccentric props, and Gaylene Carpenter delivered. There were snakes for Grandpa to collect, a full set of dishes for the family dinner, and fireworks for Paul Sycamore to carry around. Penelope Sycamore had an impressively detailed array of props for her hobbies, including paint brushes and a canvas for her artwork, and a typewriter and several manuscripts for her playwrighting. I could see the working titles of her plays typed on the manuscripts. Carpenter did well in selecting these props because they each served to highlight the eccentricity of the family.

I thoroughly enjoyed the performance of Kathy Lemons portraying Penelope ‘Penny’ Sycamore. She had great comedic timing in the delivery of her lines and portrayed the loving mother that is striving for everyone in her family to be happy. There was a natural flow to the way she spoke, and I could hear the difference between her genuine laughter when she relaxed with her family, and her nervous laughter when she worried that she would embarrass her daughter. Lemons did excellent in her role as matriarch of the family.

The awkward ballet movements of Chelsea Harp worked perfectly in her portrayal of Essie Carmichael. Essie Carmichael wants to be a ballerina, and though she is terrible at it, persists in learning. Harp has good physical comedy and did very well moving around the set and running into things as she attempted to pivot and pirouette. She also maintained a youthful innocence in the way she spoke, keeping her tone light and her expression hopeful and optimistic.

Brittaneé Francois-Hearne played the earthy and grounded Rheba, the cook and helper of the family. Francois-Hearne had good presence on stage with her fast talk and obvious excitement. She was very expressive. Even without her clearly audible lines I could understand her clearly by watching her face. I enjoyed watching her whenever she was on stage, and she made it hard to look away.

Paul Sycamore, the loving husband to Penny and father to Alice and Essie, was played by Haden Capps. Capps portrayed a childlike innocence in his portrayal of Paul and how he interacted with the other characters. He consistently walked around with soot and was very optimistic in his interactions with his family. Throughout the play Capps stayed very focused on his tinkering with Mr. De Pinna, his head often down as he experimented with new materials. Yet when his daughter was hurt, and wife upset Capps showed a loving father as he made sure to give his full attention to them, finally looking away from his work and being where he was needed. Capps helped to highlight the happiness and love of this crazy family.

Jarrett Self presented one of the most comedic characters in his portrayal of Mr. De Pinna. Self used physicality in his stooped and slowed movement to create humor which was heightened by his oddly high-pitched voice. Throughout the show he provided some of the most random and humorous reactions to events, making it impossible not to laugh.

Andy Alamo played Ed Carmichael, the son-in-law to the Sycamores. Alamo did well creating a character with the youthful innocence that matched him with the rest of the family. He enjoyed his hobbies of printing random things for the sake of printing and focused on enjoying life and his family. He also did well portraying his character’s unease when he began being followed, telling others of the stranger following him in such a way that it was easy to dismiss the event. Alamo successfully fit in with the exuberance for life that the rest of the Vanderhoff-Sycamore-Carmichael family had.

Donald, the handy man and assistant of the family, was played by Joshua Emmanuel McRae Davis. Davis had powerful stage presence. He projected all his lines well and had superb comedic timing. When he was on stage, you watched him and laughed as he offered half-eaten candies to visitors or laughed with Rheba about everything that happened around them. I even enjoyed watching him put on his hat as he marched from the kitchen to the hat rack and snapped the hat on with determination.

Greg Doss had a very laid back, easy way about him in his portrayal of Martin Vanderhof, otherwise known as Grandpa. I appreciated how this set the tone of a carefree character that enjoys the simple things and wants to have fun in life. Doss had his designated chair from which he read his paper, visited with guests, and gave advice. The kind voice he used as he questioned someone to guide them through a difficult situation showcased his position as patriarch of the family. His calm concern in the face of chaos showed that he really embraced his philosophy of finding joy in live. Doss did very well using his role to advance the story and tie everyone together.

Alice, the normal daughter of the Sycamore family, was portrayed by Stephanie Simmons. She did very well at portraying her conflict between loving her family and knowing that her love interest might not understand them. Her rushed and panicked tone as dinner plans fell through showed a character that was nervous about what Tony Kirby and his family thought of her, yet stayed strong in her love towards her family

Jack Snyder played Alice’s fiancé, Tony Kirby. Snyder did very well keeping his focus on Alice. I watched his expression flicker as he encountered one crazy situation after the next, but he kept his focus on his sweetheart. The heat and intensity in his voice as he fought to keep Alice made his character very endearing.

The dance instructor who was adopted into the family was portrayed by Jeff Meador. Meador’s portrayal of Boris Kolenkhov worked well because he was so consistent. Throughout the play, Meador maintained a thick Russian accent, and yet he was easily understood. Meador also made sure to use voice inflection to show how much he missed Russia before the revolution, how bad he felt for his fellow Russian immigrants, and how he disapproved of the other ballet schools in the area.

Anthony and Miriam Kirby were portrayed by Nathan Early and Michelle Newman. I appreciated the facial expression of Nathan Early as he first enters the stage and encounters the Vanderhof-Sycamore-Carmichael clan. His disdain was clearly visible. Early also used stiff body posture to show his character’s disapproval and discomfort in the house.

Caitlyn Nettles and Carrie Reading played the IRS agents led by Henderson, played by Avis Agunbiade. Together these three made a formidable team. Their posture showed they meant business and their tone showed their concern for upholding the law. This served as a nice contrast to the laid-back attitude of everyone else around them.

Barbara Rose and Drenda Lewis round out the ensemble as the drunken actress Gay Wellington and the Grand Duchess Olga Katrina, respectively. While these two had minimal stage time, they both left their mark. Rose did very well over-acting while conscious. While passed out, she made sure to be an extremely obtrusive drunk sprawling over the couch and snoring loudly. Lewis held herself well, showing her characters sophisticated upbringing, and maintained her Russian accent for each of her lines. I especially enjoyed how her character softened with excitement at the chance to cook blintzes for the kind family that invited her to dinner.

I thought this performance was very well done. Details infused everything from the set, the props, and the costumes. The cast was phenomenal with their mix of comedic timing and stiff formality. Together all these elements made everything relatable in the most humorous way. So, if you want a night where you can laugh at somebody else’s awkward family situations, I highly recommend this show.

You Can’t Take It With You
Granbury Opera House
133 E Pearl Street
Granbury, TX 76048

Performances run through October 7th

Performances times are 7:30 P.M. on Fridays, 2:00 P.M. and 7:30 P.M. on Saturdays, and 2:00 P.M. on Sundays.

TICKET PRICES for You Can’t Take It With You
Ticket prices are $35 for prime seating and $30 in standard seating. Discounts are available for senior citizens, active duty military personnel, veterans, students, and children as well as for groups of ten or more.