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Review: Antaeus' 'You Can't Take It With You' is forced

'You Can't Take It With You,' by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, gets a labored staging by Antaeus Company.

October 22, 2012|By Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times Theater Critic
  • John Apicella, Ryan Vincent Anderson, center, and Kellie Matteson in a scene from the play, "You Can't Take It With You."
John Apicella, Ryan Vincent Anderson, center, and Kellie Matteson in a… (Geoffrey Wade / Picasa )

The bohemian Sycamore family of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy "You Can't Take It With You" is as mad as ever in the Antaeus Company's revival, though the household's galloping eccentricity has become a bit strained and the gaiety now seems forced.

In keeping with Antaeus tradition, the production is double cast. The ensemble I saw hadn't yet found the rhythm of the play's insouciance — a fault primarily of Gigi Bermingham's staging, which is more lurching than bouncing. The period style simply eludes her direction.

This meeting of two polar opposite families — one off-the-wall and happy, the other rich and uptight — is just too farcically labored here. Don't blame the lovers for this shambles. Kate Maher portrays Alice Sycamore with tonic common sense and Nicholas D'Agosto brings dashing star quality to the role of the well-born charmer Tony Kirby.

It's the kooky mayhem that's this production's undoing. There's not enough space on Tom Buderwitz's crowded set for all the horseplay. But the bigger problem is that the lunacy has no liftoff.

Eve Gordon as dilettante playwright and ecstatic mother Penny Sycamore has more naturalness when ministering to her loved ones than her art. Paul Eiding conducts papa Paul's fireworks experiments with a breathless enthusiasm that sputters.

Kellie Matteson twirls around the house as amateur ballerina Essie with a determined jauntiness that's often clumsy. Her husband, Ed, is played (blandly) by Ryan Vincent Anderson, making theirs an interracial marriage, the boldest stroke in Bermingham's otherwise tame production.

In general, the more oddball the supporting character, the less graceful the acting.

More humorous are Tony's aghast parents, played by John Apicella and Amelia White (who also appears as the Grand Duchess). A classic example of the outraged snobs fetching the most laughs with their stunned reactions.

Lawrence Pressman turns in a nicely measured performance as "Grandpa." To him falls the weight of the play's sentimental moral (tipped off by the title). Pressman carries his duties with aplomb, and shows that this Depression-era comedy still has a little life in it yet.

charles.mcnulty@latimes.com

"You Can't Take It With You," The Antaeus Company, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Dec. 9. Tickets: $30-$34. Contact: (818) 506-1983 or http://www.Antaeus.org. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

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