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Stage Reviews : 'You Can't Take It With You'

March 06, 1987|CHALON SMITH

Can a Kaufman and Hart comedy be played too broadly? Golden West College apparently doesn't think so, having mounted an antic revival of "You Can't Take It With You."

Kaufman and Hart's rich, almost surreal writing--and "You Can't Take It With You," a 1936 Pulitzer Prize winner, is probably their best work--invites wild abandon. And director Charles Mitchell accepts the invitation, letting the characters go full tilt. Although Mitchell flirts with excess, it isn't a bad decision.

Besides, he has quite a group of characters to work with. The oddball Sycamores are not your typical all-American clan--they're more like a 1930s Addams Family without the silly-macabre undertones. There's grandfather (played by Marc Whitmore), a carefree recluse who spouts homilies about the good life while being hunted by the IRS. And daughter Penelope (Marion Christie), who happily chirps non-stop and concocts plays (sample: "Sex Takes a Holiday," her romance drama). And husband Paul (Mike Owens), who invents fireworks in the basement and greets visitors in his underwear. The list goes on, each character more peculiar than the last. When they all have to face the real world--in the form of wealthy, stodgy dinner guests--we see how special they are.

Under Mitchell's rambunctious direction, the acting comes dangerously close to slapstick. The performances are indulgent and physical--there's enough flamboyant body language here to satisfy an aerobics class--and some work better than others.

Among the large cast (19 roles), the standouts are Whitmore, who gives the grandfather a touch of dignity in this domestic maelstrom; Christie, whose Penelope is just the type of dazzling eccentric you wouldn't mind having dinner with, and Owens, whose tirelessly affable Paul would be just the right host for a Fourth of July picnic.

The smaller roles also offer a few sparklers, especially Winifred Warga as the regal but down-home Russian duchess, David C. Robb as an imperious Russian dance instructor and Laura Mitchell as the actress who happens to pop in drunk one afternoon.

Steven Wolff Craig's spacious and nicely detailed set easily accommodates all the action. Craig goes beyond the usual abbreviated semblance of a home to create a complete antique-laden house with a full kitchen, vestibule, dining room and stairway.

"You Can't Take It With You" runs through Sunday at the Golden West College Mainstage Theater, 15744 Golden West St., Huntington Beach. Information: (714) 895-8378.

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