Photo by Don Kellogg

Thursday, November 6, 2014

You Can't Take It With You

Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman's stale and dated play is currently exploding (literally) on stage at the Longacre Theatre in a 3rd Broadway revival since it was written in 1936.  This is a commercial run that was somehow caught up in the non-profit theatre vortex of Roundabout Theatre Company at the same time (I'm sure this was another trick up Roundabout's leave to keep costs low by not having to produce an original work this season).  

While the plot is madcap (frankly, crazy), the mayhem level and star level on stage is quite substantial.  The only problem is that it's frankly too stupid with a rather banal message of simply "be happy".  There is a love story going on amongst all the hubbub and but the Carol Burnette and Saturday Night-like sketch and physical comedy simply overpowers the message and muscles its way through all 3 acts with laughter often the result but never much satisfaction past that.

The cast is huge and stars abound - James Earl Jones (Martin Vanderhof) could read the phone book and we'd all be happy and the role of the patriarch fit him age wise, but not quite stylistically.  Kristine Nielsen (Penelope Sycamore) simply knocked it out of the park with her physical comedy and infectious personality.  Annaleigh Ashford (Essie) was a bit too over the top for me as the incessant ballet dancing ditsy daughter, Mark-Linn Baker (Paul Sycamore) seemed lost in the overall mix for his talent level, Elizabeth Ashley (Olga) came in at the very end and it seemed her voice was straining to make sound.  Plus by the time she entered, the endless cast of characters parading on stage simply got me tired.  There were no less than 10 other cast members who all looked good and seemed to complement the ensemble but after a while too many characters are introduced.  I applaud a producer who undertakes such an ambitious production and employs such a large cast, but this old firecracker is a dud.  I could go on... as did the play for over 2 hours and 30 minutes over  three acts... but I won't.  

In traditional Roundabout style, the set was magnificent (kudos David Rockwell).  I do not think the actors were mic'd and it was pleasing to hear real people speaking in non-electonicized tones on stage for a play.

You could skip this production, save a few bucks, and leave the audience-going to the Roundabout subscribers who paid good money into their subscription only to find out they were subsidizing a commercial run of a Broadway production.