Northlight breathes new life into the classic comedy about embracing eccentricity
In Northlight’s neat production of Kaufman and Hart's 1936 comedy, You Can’t Take It With You, is a classic tale of the haves versus the have nots. The eccentric Sycamore family is put to the test when daughter Alice (Lucy Carapetyan) falls in love with the son (Bernard Balbot) of a Wall Street mogul. When the two families meet, there are literal and figurative fireworks, and Alice is caught between the family she knows and the boy she chose.
The finest moments in the play come from its collection of quirky characters. Joanne Dubach’s Essie prances around the stage with a delightful doe-eyed wonderment. Sean Fortunato’s on point(e) dance instructor Kolenkhov expresses a genuine warmth for the whole Sycamore clan beneath his gruff Russian candor. John Judd gives a stellar performance as the family patriarch; his tender defense of pursuing a life of passion over one of wealth certainly rings true for the Chicago theatre community.
Amidst the eccentrics, Alice should be the audience’s touchstone into normality, but Carapetyan’s performance feels emotionally stilted and lacking in charm. Her expressions of love for her family and her fiancée alike feel disingenuous. And a number of comic moments fall flat due to ambiguous direction on the part of Devon de Mayo. It’s hard to discern which quirky habits of the Sycamore family (such as eating Corn Flakes for dinner every night) are a product of their lack of wealth and which are simply characterization.
Still, de Mayo's production is mostly tight; despite the occasional misstep, there’s much to enjoy. It’s a feel-good, familiar script with a talented cast and a core message that has persevered for decades.
Northlight Theatre. By Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman. Directed by Devon de Mayo. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 15mins; one intermission.