“You Can’t Take It With You” at Center Theatre presented by Sound Theatre Company

Oh, the continued pleasure offered by some of those charming 1930s plays! Sound Theatre has revived “You Can’t Take It With You” by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman. Truly an oldie but goodie, it first appeared on Broadway in 1936, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1937, was adapted for the screen and won an Academy Award for “Best Picture.”


If you like crazy humor, you’ll like this production directed by Teresa Thuman. It features a large cast (17 players), most of them playing members of the same eccentric family. It’s a family of nut cases. There’s Grandpa wonderfully played by Teotha Dennard. He’s a voice of reason yet a man with his own idiosyncrasies. He has never paid his income taxes, and he collects snakes and keeps them in the house.


He lives with his daughter Penny (who has her own peculiarities). Penny, played with verve by Shermona Mitchell is married to a man who builds fireworks in the basement. Don’t be surprised to hear that some of them explode unexpectedly from time to time.


My very favorite role is that of Essie. Essie is Shermona’s daughter, a young thing obsessed with ballet. She always wears ballet costumes and shoes and spends most of her time practicing her kicks, pirouettes and ballet positions. She’s very feminine and prances about with a girlish enthusiasm. The only strange thing about her is that Bo Melliger who plays her happens to be a young man. He makes a good ballet dancer and a pretty young lady!


That cross-dressing is simply one hallmark of this production. The cast has been selected to represent the breadth of humanity. There are players of all colors and all sizes and not all of them are in roles one would expect. There is even a wheelchair bound woman who turns out to be quite agile and a good actor. No stereotypes here, except possibly Mr. Kolenkhov (Chris Shea), the ballet teacher. He’s more Russian than the Tzar himself, charmingly so.


These various sane and not so sane individuals carry out their insanities absurdities in a well-appointed 1930s home, filled with the knickknacks, pictures, and paraphernalia of the time. Credit goes to Robin Macartney for the really fine set.


The production starts off a little slowly, partly because the audience is so unused to the amazing diversity of the actors and the roles they assume on this stage. Thus it is actually a bit distracting. The Company has very deliberately made this work an exercise in “inclusion.” We Seattle audiences don’t see that often. It takes a little getting used to for most of us. This is a production that breaks stereotypes. Fortunately it’s so well mounted and so funny that color, size, gender, and physical ability of the actors are not issues that demand attention. A great play well produced is what captures our interest, and that’s what we get here.


Through March 11 at Center Theatre, Seattle Armory, Seattle Center, www.soundtheatrecompany.org



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