You Can’t Take It
Anteaus Theatre Company is brimming with a
family of dedicated theatre people.
Certainly, many of them have done well in feature films and television,
which pays the rent, but their loyalty to the Theatre is a calling that few can
truly understand. Helen Hayes was
reported to have said something to the effect that ‘he gave a great performance’ pointing up that when an actor puts on a
character and hits the stage, it’s a gift to the audience. Making money as an actor is an iffy
business and doing the sort of theatre that we are gifted with by Anteaus isn’t
making anybody rich. However, the
rich gifts that are offered in Kaufman and Hart’s silly play currently offered up
at Deaf West Theatre in NoHo are a bargain that should be savored: twice. A tradition that Anteaus continues is a
good one. Two casts, The Kirbys reviewed here and on alternate dates The
Sycamores present a classic American comedy. Imaginative director Gigi Bermingham has her hands full with
over thirty actors to keep track of.
Fortunately, these professionals step up to the plate, making
Bermingham’s job that of inspiring and fine tuning an excellent cast.
Cast is made up of dedicated actors who jete, amble, ramble, scurry, scramble, stroll,
limp and hustle on Tom Buderwitz’s gorgeous 1930s set. From time to time we hear and FEEL
(thanks to Jeff Gardner’s vibrating sound design) an explosion from the
basement where the family patriarch, Paul Sycamore (Marcelo Tubert), maintains
his illegal fireworks factory with his quirky assistant, Mr. Depinna (Tony
Abetemarco). Like The Munsters, we
have one ‘normal’ ingénue who works on Wall Street, perfectly cast Lizzie
Zerebko as Alice Sycamore. Lithe
and lovely, she’s head over heels about Tony Kirby, Jr. (Jeremy Glazer) whom
she met working in Tony’s father’s firm. This is young love at its most
As Mom Penny (Perfectly charming Julia Fletcher) knocks out
plays on a typewriter (that was delivered to the Sycamore home by mistake) and
daughter Essie (very flexible Linda Park) practices her interpretive dance
around the living room/dining room/family room table, her husband, Ed
Carmichael (Michael Hyland) ‘creates’ Moonlight Sonata on his xylophone when
not printing out quotes from Trotsky and delivering wife, Essie’s candy which
she creates in the Sycamore kitchen.
It’s a three ring circus with Grandpa Vanderhof (the amazing
and fabulous and dedicated Joseph Ruskin) administering his avuncular wisdom: the
calm center of the maelstrom. I
have to insert a disclaimer here.
Joe Ruskin is a pal. He has been one of those actors whom we
have seen for most of our lives in hundreds of edgy roles as a dedicated working
actor. His success stems from his being present and accounted for. Recipient of the Ralph Morgan Award
from the Screen Actors Guild and deeply engaged in the working conditions of
actors for many years, not only is his well seasoned take on Grandpa Vanderhof
endearing, it reflects his dedication to the craft of acting. Experiencing Joe bring this character
to life with such grace is a pleasure that I’ll always remember. His real life daughter, Alicia, was my
agent for many years and her dedication to representing actors is a direct
reflection of her dad’s professional ethic.
We now return to our regularly scheduled review.
It’s a simple story.
A ‘normal’ daughter has emerged in the middle of a wild and crazy
family. Every single character is crisp and funny. Penny wants one of her play
scripts to be interpreted by a professional and hauls an actress, Gay
Wellington (adorable Janellen Steininger) home to do a reading. Gay is a
fabulous drunk and passed out on the couch when Tony brings his hoity toity
parents, Mr. and Mrs. Kirby (straight from Central Casting in the best sense:
Josh Clark and Shannon Holt) to meet Alice’s parents. Russian dance master, Boris Kolekov (over the top and having way too much fun to
the delight of everyone, Jeff Doba) who blows in from the Steppes regularly to
instruct Essie in ‘la danse’ creates havoc. Ms Holt returns with a flourish as
Olga, a deposed Russian Royal, currently waiting tables in Times Square.
Tech credits are all super with nods to A. Jeffrey
Schoenberg’s costumes and Heather Ho’s props. Director Bermingham’s subtle hand in broad strokes has
created a hit in every sense of the word. It’s a straightforward comedy that
reminds us all that having a little fun is what life should really be
about. To quote a phrase, “Don’t
Postpone Joy.” Please see this show
more than once. Invest in great
theatre. You Can’t Take It With You!
YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU
By George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart
Directed by Gigi Birmingham
ANTEAUS THEATRE @ Deaf West
NoHo, CA 91601
Through December 9, 2012
Tickets: $34 Top
818 506 1983