Thursday, April 2, 2009

Los Angeles Times says You Can't Take It With You has "heartwarming charm "!

Los Angeles Times Review of You Can't Take It With You

Review: 'You Can't Take It With You' at West Valley Playhouse

The perennial screwball appeal of "You Can't Take It With You" dances about West Valley Playhouse. George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's 1936 Pulitzer Prize winner receives an affable revival that generally counters its community theater context.

Welcome to the Depression-era household of Martin Vanderhof (Bob Van Dusen), snake-collecting patriarch to a tribe of nonconformists. Penelope Sycamore (Denice Stradling), his daughter, writes countless plays on a mistakenly delivered typewriter, while Paul (Kenny Lombino), her husband, concocts fireworks in the basement. Essie (Alissa-Nicole Koblentz), their eldest child, incessantly butchers ballet moves to the xylophone riffs of Ed (Daniel Krause), her printing-press-addicted spouse.
Leavening the ranks is younger Sycamore daughter Alice (Chelsea Pitillo), the sole conventional family member. Her romance with wealthy Tony Kirby (David Columbo) germinates the play's message, which emerges from the mayhem after his snobby parents (Jim Follett and Rosemary Bird) meet the prospective in-laws.

It's an oft-done classic, too often overdone. That makes director John Barker's light-fingered approach doubly gratifying. Designers Charles W. Hall (set) and Danny Truxaw (lighting) manage most of the authors' specs, and, barring not dressing the Kirbys in formal wear, so does costumer Natasha Baumgardner.

Overall, the cast is professionally minded and delightful. Van Dusen conveys exactly the right flinty joviality, Stradling and Lombino merge eccentricity and sincerity, and Koblentz and Krause inhale their pixilated characters. Pitillo, initially a tad over-bright, relaxes into a fine period ingénue, sweetly paired with Columbo's ideally earnest hero.

Among the subsidiary roles, Steve Ruggles' gonzo dancing master, Jan Bayouth's dipso actress, Nancy Solomons' blintz-happy grand duchess and Michael Jay Aronovitz as the iceman who came and stayed are adroit scene stealers. Even the odd anachronistic choice, like interracially casting cook Rheba's (Alicia Cheadle) boyfriend (Brian Bookbinder) as an Irishman, doesn't seriously harm thematic intent. You can take its heartwarming charm with you all the way home.

-- David C. Nichols

"You Can't Take It With You," West Valley Playhouse, 7242 Owensmouth Ave., Canoga Park. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays. No performance April 12. Ends April 26. $25. (818) 884-1907. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Nuns Gone Wild

Alissa-Nicole Koblentz (Sister Berthe),Mirai Booth-Ong (Sister Margaretta) and Taylor Pyles (Sister Christian) Just a silly thing we concocked backstage before our final performance of The Sound of Music. Have a laugh with us!