The University of Massachusetts Boston’s Department of Performing Arts brought to life the story of an erratic but lovable family in the production of You Can’t Take It with You. Directed by Michael Fennimore, the story follows the life of the Sycamore family and the quirky tendencies that Alice (Hannah Drummey), the eldest daughter, tries to hide from her soon-to-be in-laws, the Kirbys.
The set shows the Sycamores’ typical middle-class living room from the 1930's. The set had soft lighting behind the curtains, adding the effect of evening, Mrs. Sycamore’s (Alanna Bassett) typewriter off to the side where she regularly sat behind and banged on the keys, and a picture on the wall that fell every time Mr. Sycamore (Alex Hart) tested one of his fireworks.
The show focuses on Alice Sycamore falling in love with her boss’s son, Tony Kirby (Joey Lawyer), and reluctantly introducing his snobby upper-class parents to her own unpredictable family. It’s easy to understand Alice’s concern as we are introduced to all of the colorful Sycamores during the first two acts.
Alice’s mother, Penelope, is a failed playwright and painter. Her younger sister, Essie (Cassidy Bane), is a ridiculously ungraceful dancer. While her father, Paul, spends his days building fireworks in the house. Her grandfather, Martin Vanderhoff (Thomas Koen), gives tax payments the same consideration as a person does junk mail.
Alice’s worst fears are realized when Mr. and Mrs. Kirby (Matthew D'Innocenzo and Alycia Love) visit the Sycamore home and disaster literally erupts as one of Mr. Sycamore’s fireworks explodes during dinner. The evening ends with Alice trying to call things off with Tony despite his desperate pleas for her to ignore his parents’ judgments.
The costumes made by Rafael Jaen added just another contrast between the Kirbys and the Sycamores. The Sycamores sported plain outfits fitting to the '30s, while Mrs. Kirby is first introduced in an over-the-top deep purple gown with a matching headwrap.
UMass Boston senior Erin Reilly played the Grand Duchess Olga Katrina, offering some comedic relief in the final act, after things had headed south for the Sycamores. Reilly has been acting since her freshman year of high school and has performed in previous shows at the university — "Urinetown" and "Twelfth Night."
"You Can’t Take It with You" is the one of the first non-musicals Reilly has performed in. Even with the lack of musical numbers, the cast rehearsed immensely since the beginning of October. Reilly said rehearsals were held five days a week.
Reilly recounts working with director Michael Fennimore as an enjoyable experience. “He gives specific notes and was hands on as a director but very open to suggestions from the actors. He lets the actors find the characters themselves.”
Reilly said her favorite character is Essie’s dance instructor, Boris Kolenkhov, played by Ben Sibley. Sibley was another comedic relief in the play. Kolenkhov tells it like it is and isn’t afraid to let Essie know her dancing “stinks.” Reilly agrees that "You Can’t Take It with You" is a great comedy, but also holds a more meaningful message.
“It’s a really good show for the hard economic times in this country. It’s saying that money isn’t important and family is what matters.”