You Can't Take It With You (2018)

You Can't Take It With You (2018)

Jul 20-Aug 12, 2018

You Can't Take It With You (2018)

"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.

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Plot Synopsis

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

Director’s Note

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

CU Presents

Turning CSF’s deep bench of character actors loose inside the world of "You Can’t Take it With You" will be a joy to watch. I’ll be there, front row.

Timothy Orr, Producing Artistic Director

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Daily Camera

"The show is a light, unobtrusive comedy, but it makes important points about the importance of respect and love. It's a message that Shakespeare surely would have recognized."

Adam Goldstein

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Boulder Weekly

"Though its title is certainly a truism, the play easily takes the cake as the most entertaining and enjoyable entry on the 2018 CSF slate."

Gary Zeidner, Boulder Weekly

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Daily Camera

...[T]he comedy revels in zany antics and unabashed silliness to draw its laughs.

A.H. Goldstein, Daily Camera

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CU Presents, "A Q&A with Sam Gregory, CSF’s go-to ghost"

"In other productions, you’re often working with people who are all in the same place professionally, and it feels more like a job—it’s all very professional, but it doesn’t have the same passion and joy. There’s a great pleasure in working with people who are in it for the fun of it, who really enjoy grabbing pizza after rehearsal and going on hikes together. Plus, the audiences are so great and enthusiastic. There’s nothing like performing in the summertime up in Boulder."

Sam Gregory (Grandpa Martin Vanderhof)

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Wyoming in Motion

"The Colorado Shakespeare Festival mounts the play perfectly...Laughs were constant, both at perfectly delivered one-liners and at the overall hilarity of the play."

Barbara Peterson, Wyoming in Motion

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"The stage bristles with talent; it’s rare to see a cast so exuberant, vibrant and daring, a group of actors willing to throw themselves into every little bit and shtick with such unabashed enthusiasm."

Juliet Wittman, Westword

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Carolyn Howarthº

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Mike Largent


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Alex Rosenthal

G-man Mack

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Elena Sayeedi

G-man photographer

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Kyle Chesney

The Man

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Leraldo Anzaldua

Paul Sycamore/Fight Choreographer

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Chloe McLeod

Essie Carmichael

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Sean Scrutchins*


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Rodney Lizcano*

Boris Kolenhkov

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Lindsay Ryan


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Jihad Milhem*

Ed Carmichael

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Christian Ray Robinson

Tony Kirby

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Lauren Dennis


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Sam Sandoe

Mr. De Pinna

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Coleman Zeigen

Mr. Kirby

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Mare Trevathan


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Betty Hart*

Mrs. Kirby

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Leslie O'Carroll*

Penelope Vanderhof Sycamore

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Sam Gregory*

Martin (Grandpa) Vanderhof

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Artistic Team


Erika Randall

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Assistant Stage Manager

Darion Ramos*

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Stage Manager

Christine Rose Moore*

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Lighting Designer

Katie Gruenhagen

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Casting Director

Sylvia Gregory

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Bianca Frazer

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Costume Designer

Meghan Anderson Doyle

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Assistant Sound Designer

Bailey Trierweiler

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Sound Designer

Jason Ducat^

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Costume Shop Manager

Adam M. Dill

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Scenic Designer

Caitlin Ayer^

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