You know it's a bad week when both the FBI and the IRS show up at your door. "You Can't Take It With You," George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's...
You know it’s a bad week when both the FBI and the IRS show up at your door.
“You Can’t Take It With You,” George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, was first produced in 1936. The play won the drama award in 1937.
But this most revived of Kaufman and Hart’s screwball comedies has some relevance today. Circumstances weren’t that different: The economy was tight, the international scene was heating up and America had a surplus of “G-men” just waiting to find insurrection — or collect back taxes.
When the feds come to Grandpa Vanderhof’s door, there’s 24 years of back income tax to collect. Of course, Grandpa’s earnings from his property are modest. He walked off his stressful white-collar job 35 years earlier and hadn’t been back since.
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When Wilbur C. Henderson of the Internal Revenue Service shows up, Grandpa asks what the government is going to do with his taxes.
“What do I get for my money?” Grandpa asks Henderson. “What’s the government give me?”
“Why, the government gives you everything. It protects you,” says Henderson.
“What from?” asks Grandpa.
“Well, invasion,” Henderson says. “Foreigners that might come over here and take everything you’ve got.”
“Oh, I don’t think they’re going to do that.”
“Well, what about Congress and the Supreme Court and the president?” asks Henderson. “We’ve got to pay them, don’t we?”
“Not with my money, no sir.”
Grandpa (Bill Higham) heads a household of eccentric hobbyists. Daughter Penny (Karen Jo Fairbrook) has written a sheaf of unproduced plays. Paul (David Bailey), her husband, makes fireworks in the basement. Essie, their daughter (Amy Schumacher) makes little chocolate candies and dances in the living room in a ballet tutu.
Her husband, Ed (Boyd Morrison), an amateur printer and xylophonist, has been tucking little sayings into the boxes of Essie’s “Love Dream” candies, Trotsky sayings such as “The State Is God” and sentiments like “Dynamite the Supreme Court.”
This draws the attention of the FBI, especially when they discover Paul’s gunpowder. They think they’ve discovered a terrorist cell.
Alice (Larisa Peters) is Penny and Paul’s other daughter and the “normal” family member. She met Tony Kirby (Mark Reinhardt) at his dad’s Wall Street investment firm, and they’ve fallen in love.
The impending culture shock when the two families meet, one WASPY wealthy, one big, poor and eccentric, makes for riotous comedy.
But the message is clear: Life’s pretty simple if you just relax, as Grandpa puts it.
Actress Fairbrook says, “The only thing that we have in the end is the minutes that we’ve lived. Each moment is an opportunity to be creative, or be happy or to feel.”
Director J.D. Lloyd said Kaufman and Hart were the equivalent of the “Saturday Night Live” writers of their generation. Topical references abound, from the Monte Carlo Ballet to the second Russian Five-Year Plan.
The performance has a cast of 18, all of whom are onstage together in Act Two.
“There’s an athleticism to these actors,” said Lloyd. “I’d equate it to playing a sports game in a championship tournament. They have to work as a team.”
Diane Wright: 425-745-7815 or firstname.lastname@example.org