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You won't find a better batty bunch

This version of 'You Can't Take It With You' is like a warm hug.

November 19, 2007|Daryl H. Miller | Times Staff Writer

A visit to the Vanderhof-Sycamore household of "You Can't Take It With You" is pretty much guaranteed to make a person wish for a permanent place in this bustling, happy family.

Sure, the recurring explosions from the basement fireworks laboratory could get on one's nerves, as could the impromptu xylophone concerts in the living room, but those seem a small price to pay for the joyful companionship of people who believe life is too precious to be wasted doing anything other than what one pleases.

The giddy idealism of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's 1936 comedy sets just the right tone for the Rubicon Theatre's 10th-anniversary celebrations, and the large cast (18!) enables this admirable Ventura company to invite back many actors who have performed there. Staged with enthusiasm and care, the production, the biggest in Rubicon history, is destined to spread good feeling, though one shudders to imagine what it must be doing to the group's budget.

The genius of this Pulitzer-winning play is that it treats a showdown of American values as a screwball comedy. The Vanderhof-Sycamores, whose philosophy is stated right there in the title, represent one side. The other is embodied by Mr. Anthony Kirby, a Wall Street type, and his repressed wife. The families meet when their offspring fall in love.

The setting is the Vanderhof-Sycamores' living room, rendered by Gary Wissmann as a once-grand, tall-windowed Victorian space crammed with the implements of the family's many enthusiasms.

Leonard Kelly Young's Mr. Sycamore cheerfully shouts every word, his hearing ruined by fireworks experiments. Though perpetually lost in the worlds of the plays she's writing, Robin Pearson Rose's Mrs. Sycamore is never too preoccupied to nurture the happiness of her daughters, one ballet-mad (Sonia Sanz) and zestily married (to mischief-eyed Joseph Fuqua), the other (Winslow Corbett) a working girl who is sparklingly in love with the boss' son (Rick Cornette, whose Anthony Kirby Jr., unlike his parents, uses his head and heart in equal measure).

In supporting roles, Jamie Torcellini and Paul Ainsley employ physical comedy to explosively funny effect, and Stephanie Zimbalist draws repeated applause for her laugh-out-loud turns in two zany roles.

As the grandpa who is the chief live-and-let-live proponent, Robin Gammell is ever the calm at the center of the storm.

One could quibble that the action doesn't reel as out of control as it could, but with her attention to small but telling details, director Jenny Sullivan, a Rubicon regular, achieves something more important: She finds the show's heart. This viewer, for one, had a hard time seeing the last 20 minutes. Too many tears clouded my eyes.



'You Can't Take It With You'

Where: Rubicon Theatre, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura

When: 2 and 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Also 7 p.m. this Sunday and Dec. 16

Ends: Dec. 23

Price: $34 to $57

Contact: (805) 667-2900 or

Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes

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