You Can't Take it With You, but have fun on the way

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 26, 2012

By Deirdre Parker Smith
If “You Can’t Take It With You,” you might as well have some fun while you’ve got it.
That’s the premise of Piedmont Players’ summer farce, which comes with a large cast and a set by Reid Leonard that drew applause on opening night.
This time Dr. Jim Epperson directs, drawing on his years of experience at Catawba College and elsewhere, and he’s keeping it light.
Simply put, it’s all about what happens when two worlds collide.
One is the crazy, mixed up world of the Sycamore family, holding down a ramshackle Victorian house in the 1930s. The other is the straight, somber Kirby family — the Kirbys of Wall Street, orchids and opera.
Young Alice Sycamore is secretary to the Kirbys, and the junior Mr. Kirby, Tony, is crazy in love with her. Piedmont veterans McKenna Bernhardt and Kevin Aitken play the young lovers. Both have experience on stage, and it shows. Young Tony is quite the gentleman, but a gentleman who knows what he wants, which is more than can be said of his stuffy father, played by Barnet Sherman. Sherman somehow reminded me of Barry Bostwick, playing serious and solemn.
And his mother is properly snooty, as played by Nancy Gaines, looking lovely in blue.
Where to start with the Sycamores? Mother Penny, with just the right ethereal note from Linda Jones is a playwright and sometimes painter. Her playwrighting began when a typewriter was accidentally delivered to the house.
Father Paul, with the reliably funny Shawn Van Wallendael in the role, makes fireworks in the basement with Mr. Depinna, a very funny Nick Bishop, who looks like he’s having a really good time.
Alice’s sister, Essie, thinks she’s a ballet dancer, and the lithe Micala Hall is a lovely ditz. Her husband, Ed, likes to play with his printing press. Lee Roberts is right for the aimless but ernest Ed.
Grandpa, who really is the focus of the play, is played by Dane Hartgrove, with a laid-back attitude and a tendency to say what he thinks.
Rheba, played by Yasmine Williams, and Donald, played by Justin Davis, serve the family, loving them while still shaking their heads at them.
Boris Kolenkhov is the Russian dance instructor who really just wants somewhere to go and something to do. Steve Freeman has some funny moments, and manages to hold onto a passable Russian accent.
Theresa Brandt flutters in as the drunken actress Gay Wellington. Rodney Lippard plays a mean Internal Revenue agent, and Lori Van Wallendael does a lovely turn as Olga, Russian royalty turned waitress.
Joe Brandt, Darin Clements II and Tim Watson stumble into the whole mess as G-men, government agents.
What the show lacks is pace. With all these silly people in crazy situations, it should move much faster than the 21/2 hours (with intermission) that it took on opening night.
And the group of very able players hasn’t quite gelled as an ensemble. That almost always improves as the performances continue. Individuals are funny, and when they’re all interacting a bit more, there will be a whole lot more laughs.
For younger audience members, it would help to read the page of terminology included opposite the cast list, as some of the references pre-date them.
It’s good clean fun, with a few explosions (remember the fireworks in the basement) and some clever lines that will leave you chuckling.
Not bad for a hot summer night.
“You Can’t Take It With You,” underwritten by the Rowan County Tourism Development Authority, continues tonight and Saturday and Aug. 1-4 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 29 at 2:30 p.m. at the Meroney Theater in downtown Salisbury. For tickets, call 704-633-5471.