Starting at $20
Starting at $20
- Presented by: Colorado Shakespeare Festival
- Runtime: 140 minutes
- Intermission: One
- Venue: University Theatre
- University Theatre Building, 261 University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80302
"As near as I can see, the only thing you can take with you is the love of your friends."
Seize the rare opportunity to see a hit screwball comedy on the professional stage. When Alice brings her boyfriend’s traditional, straight-laced family to dine with her household of freethinking eccentrics, fights break out and fireworks erupt. Kaufman and Hart’s 1930s classic, more relevant today than ever, pays homage to those who march to the beat of their own drum and reminds us all to choose dreams over drudgery.
Welcome to the Vanderhof-Sycamore-Carmichael household, home to three generations of an unconventional family of cheerful and lovable eccentrics.
When Alice Sycamore becomes engaged to Tony Kirby, she is reluctant to introduce her wacky family to her fiancé’s “ordinary” family. Alice’s relatives promise to be on their best behavior when the Kirbys come for dinner. However, when Tony arrives with his parents on the wrong night, they encounter the full zaniness of the household, and the straight-laced Kirbys are shocked by Alice’s unorthodox family. The dinner party continues to hurtle towards disaster… fireworks included.
After the catastrophic dinner, Tony and Alice’s relationship seems destined for failure. But as the dust settles on this family fiasco, Grandpa has some wise words up his sleeve to remind everyone about what truly matters.
—Bianca Frazer, Dramaturg
Some plays are content to “hold a mirror up to nature,” but my favorites are the ones that go the extra mile and—like You Can’t Take It With You—offer hope for humanity.
The Sycamore brood is a large, quirky clan created not only by blood, but also by choice. They welcome and metaphorically adopt all types, all races, all socioeconomic classes into their fold—and always find space to crowd in yet another chair at their already-bursting table. They relish each others’ differences, support one another’s hobbies and endeavors, and philosophize and question the conventional definitions of success and the American Dream. They read, paint, dance and gin up fireworks in the basement! And although they don’t always agree, they resolve conflicts with humor and love. In a word, they are stellar examples of those who follow their dreams and live their lives on their own terms—and, although living in a world short on jobs and resources, they always express gratitude for what they do have: health, eachother and the chance to “go along and be happy in our own sort of way.”
At a time when nearly every morning I wake to news of incivility, division and exclusion, I find their care of one another a great reminder of how I’d like to live my own life—with humor and with kindness.
This play has attained “classic” status and what better place to experience it than at a festival committed to classic works? According to a 2017 NPR poll, You Can’t Take It With You has been one of the 10 most-produced plays every year (except 2016) since rights became available in 1939. I find that remarkable: that a play written so long ago resonates with nearly eight decades of theatre-makers and theatre-goers.
The cynic in me says, “Well sure … it’s a play without salty language or dubious morals. And there’s lots of good parts to go around.” But the hopeful in me crosses her fingers that it might be for its universal themes of happiness, gratitude and finding one’s chosen family. And, of course, for its outrageous humor. Because after all, communing with each other over laughter is perhaps the best way to overcome any obstacle!
My greatest hope as you watch our production is that you’ll be swept up in the spirit of the Sycamore clan—that you’ll find joy in their eccentricities and gentle lessons in goodness. And most of all, that you’ll share belly laughs long after the last bow!
—Carolyn Howarth, Director
Optimism and America in the 1930s
The tremendous impact of the Great Depression sent shockwaves throughout the United States, influencing all aspects of life and culture. One effect was that people sought to escape the hardships of their everyday lives by going to the theatre. For this reason, the 1930s saw a rise in comedies and satire which often questioned the myth of the American Dream. You Can’t Take It With You (1936) is such an escapist comedy, but—unlike its contemporaries—it boldly paints a picture of optimism in dark times.
New York City in the 1930s was tumultuous. The unemployment rate never fell below 14% and the average income of a middle-class family dropped at least 40%. The family in You Can’t Take It With You is just such a family—they may eat corn flakes for meals, but they still have more than many people around them.
As millions suffered, many of the wealthy (what we would now call the “one percent”) maintained their wealth. Russian immigrants also added to the class stratification of the era: hundreds of Russian nobles, or “White Russians,” fled the communist revolutions in the new Soviet Union to come to America. The influx of Europeans worried the now-isolationist America that there was another war on the horizon. It was nearly impossible to feel comfortable in any aspect of life.
For You Can’t Take It With You, George Kaufman and Moss Hart collaborated for the second time; Kaufman was older and more experienced than Hart, who had an impoverished upbringing and no success in the theatre. The pair was nervous about how their whimsical, wild and wacky play would be received—but when it play premiered in at New York City’s Booth Theatre in 1936, it delighted audiences. Wrote Richard Lockridge (New York Sun), “There is not a fleck of satire in You Can’t Take It With You, but only gargantuan absurdity, hilariously preposterous antics and the rumble of friendly laughter, with madly comic people.” The play went on to run for 837 performances in New York, tour the United States and win the 1937 Pulitzer Prize. When Frank Capra made the 1938 film version, instead of closing the New York theatre run, it became the first time in Broadway history that a play and film adaptation ran simultaneously.
Part of the play’s success is its inviting audience members to escape into the Vanderhof-Sycamore-Carmichael home … and come out with a smile. You Can’t Take It With You persists because of its optimism that seeks to remind us of what it is to be a family—and to be American.
—Bianca Frazer, Dramaturg, with Isabel Smith-Bernstein
Timothy Orr, Producing Artistic DirectorRead the full review - CU Presents
Adam GoldsteinRead the full review - Daily Camera
Gary Zeidner, Boulder WeeklyRead the full review - Boulder Weekly
A.H. Goldstein, Daily CameraRead the full review - Daily Camera
CU Presents, "A Q&A with Sam Gregory, CSF’s go-to ghost"
Sam Gregory (Grandpa Martin Vanderhof)Read the full review - CU Presents, "A Q&A with Sam Gregory, CSF’s go-to ghost"
Wyoming in Motion
Barbara Peterson, Wyoming in MotionRead the full review - Wyoming in Motion
Juliet Wittman, WestwordRead the full review - Westword
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Martin (Grandpa) Vanderhof
Penelope Vanderhof Sycamore
Mr. De Pinna
Paul Sycamore/Fight Choreographer
Costume Shop Manager
Adam M. Dill
Assistant Sound Designer
Meghan Anderson Doyle
Christine Rose Moore*
Assistant Stage Manager
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