You Can't Take It With You
by Moss Hart & George S. Kaufman
Due to power outages in Lower Manhattan, YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU has been postponed one week from November 2-5 to November 9-12.
The new dates and times are:
Friday, November 9: 7:30 PM
Saturday, November 10: 2 & 7:30 PM
Sunday, November 11: 2 PM
Monday, November 12: 7:30 PM
900 Broadway, Suite 905
New York, NY 10003
TACT Subscribers call 212-560-2184 for reservations.
The Sycamore family is not so very different from yours - well, they do make fireworks in the cellar, practice ballet in the living room, and keep pet snakes in the dining room. Still, they love life, hate pretense, and have philosophical differences with the IRS. Yet, when the youngest daughter falls in love with the son of her conservative boss, sparks fly in an hilarious clash of styles.
Mackenzie MeehanEssie Carmichael
DANA SMITH-CROLLPenelope Sycamore
JACK KOENIGPaul Sycamore
JEFF TALBITTMr. De Pinna
GEOFFREY MOLLOYEd Carmichael
SIMON JONESMartin Vanderhof
VICTORIA MACKAlice Sycamore
RON McCLARYWilbur C. Henderson
JEFFERY C. HAWKINSBoris Kolenkhov
DELPHI HARRINGTONGay Wellington
ANITA CAREYMrs. Miriam Kirby
JAMES SABAAnthony P. Kirby
CYNTHIA HARRISThe Grand Duchess Olga Katrina
Scott Alan EvansDirector
Kayliane BurnsProduction Stage Manager
"You Can't Take It With You" opened December 14, 1936 at the Booth Theatre. It became a phenomenal success playing 837 performances and winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1937. The film version of the play won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director (Frank Capra) in 1938.
Kaufman and Hart wrote in a harsh political climate: The United States was in the grips of the Depression and an estimated 25-30% of the workforce was unemployed in 1933. Student graduating from college had very few career prospects. A popular ditty of the thirties, "Ode to Higher Education," contains the lines,
"I sing in praise of college
Of M.A.s and PhDs,
But in Pursuit of Knowledge
We are starving by degrees"
It is in this atmosphere that Martin Vanderhof, the Grandpa and patriarch of the play, goes to Columbia's commencement and describes it with such a mocking, patronizing tone.
Theatres were hit hard by the Depression. Only 80 new plays appeared between 1939 and 1940, compared to the 280 that were written between 1927 and 1928. In response to the difficult economic times, producers often chose plays that were "safe" and frequently escapist. On the other hand, many of the plays funded by the government through the New Deal dealt with troubles of the unemployed and working class and were accused of being socialist. In order to create truly risky or political theatre, theatre artists had to create their own companies and fun their own projects, which was how The Group Theatre (with members such as Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, and Elia Kazan) was created. It is important to keep in mind. however, that the mainstream theatre before the Depression had not been particularly risky: Broadway comedy at the beginning of the 20th century was generally of a blander, lower sort. Broadway producers needed to tour their shows in order to turn a profit. Plays were selected for their appeal to the "hinterlands" and the question "How will it play in Peoria?" was one of true consequence.
Shortly waster WWI, the economics of successful touring became impossible. Costs increased and competition from the vaudeville chains and silent movies cut into profits. Broadway producers resolved to get out o the touring and, once freed from their obligation to be wholesome, began to produce plays that would appeal to a New York audience - plays as Booth Tarkington would eventually refer to them, "for wise guys." The Broadway of the 1930s was soon experiencing a remarkable renaissance of high comedy, born out of the "safe" requirements of producers and the public's desire for spirit-lifting entertainment.
The plays of this remarkable era sang the splendors of New York for audiences of New Yorkers and celebrated a city coming into it's own ad the Capital of the World. Before this American comedy boom, high comedy was mainly imported from Europe and concerned the strict class systems of playwrights such as Congreve, Marivaux, and Wilde. Now, in a rare historical confluence, a marvelous collection of urban wits came together with a New York audience that was capable of appreciating their high-spirits and intelligence.
Hart and Kaufman's "You Can't Take It With You," through quintessentially a New York play, was written entirely in Beverly Hills after Hart suggested the idea during a stay in Hollywood. The two homesick writers wrote the play, originally titled "Grandpa's Other Snake," and brought it back to the East Coast to try it out in Philadelphia before finally bringing it to New York in 1936. It seemed to be exactly what city-dwellers of the time needed: a recipe to beat the depression blues. In its disarming and amusing way, the play offered up a philosophy that is still attractive today: Life is too short to waste on meaningless obligatory things and cliched though it may be, the best things in life are free.
In its non-aggressive, non-judgmental (an non-denominational) way, "You Can't Take It With You" speaks directly to the child in us all - and tells us that it's alright to value playtime and it's a fine thing to follow our dreams.