While others are scaring themselves silly this weekend, perhaps you'd like to have a good, old-fashioned laugh. I can recommend the perfect show for you to escape the ghosts and goblins of Halloween, not to mention the scary world of 2009 (with unemployment and financial distress). Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman's 1936 Pulitzer Prize winner, You Can't Take It With You, is an old-school screwball comedy with 19 people in the cast, every one of them playing a character with some kind of eccentricity. It's a great show for a university, since it gives actors in training a change to do something well beyond naturalistic acting, and this weekend's production at UC's College-Conservatory of Music is a delirious evening of laughter and warmth that's the result of lots of attention to detail by director Richard Hess and his busy cast.
Three generations of the Sycamore family live in a big cluttered home. Grandfather Martin Vanderhof (Khristopher Dean) walked away from working years earlier and enjoys outings to watch graduations and chat with police officers. His daughter Penny (Hope Shangle in a delightfully daffy performance) decides to become a playwright the day a typewriter was mistakenly delivered to the Sycamore home; she's never finished a play, but she has many in progress.
Although the family has no serious income, they get by and actually have an Irish maid/cook Ailene (Caroline Shannon) and her unemployed boyfriend Donald (Casey Scott Leach) runs errands and hangs out. They're the more level-headed members of the household, with the exception of one totally normal daughter Alice (Catherine Prevett) who works in an office on Wall Street as a secretary. Of course Alice has a suitor, Tony (Gregory Wool), who's the heir apparent at the firm. Alice is fearful, with good reason, that her oddball family will jinx any likelihood of a serious relationship, a fear that comes true when Tony and his stuffy, wealthy parents come for a visit, complicated by the IRS and other legal scrutiny.
You get the picture — it's a lot of goofy chaos that resolves happily and pleasantly. Hess has orchestrated all this in about two-and-a-half hours of good-natured fun, and Tom Umfrid's set is a masterpiece of period detail (much of which has been imported from his and Hess' own homes). You won't be bored by what's going on onstage, but take some time before the show begins or during intermission to look at all the stuff that makes this feel like a home inhabited by real people who have priorities beyond making money. These are people who care about one another and just want to find happiness. It's a wonderful tonic for 2009.
By the way, CCM's drama productions too often don't attract quite the same size audiences as musical theater, which is a shame, because the productions are always entertaining and wonderfully executed. I attended the opening of You Can't Take It With You and there were empty seats. The good news for you is that you can probably call 513-55-4183 and order a ticket ($15-$28) for this delightful production. You can also purchase tickets online here.