On Friday night, Anne and I went to The Rep, to see this seasons opening show, You Can’t Take It with You. Written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, this comedy premiered in New York, in 1936. It won a Pulitzer, which still resonates more in Saint Louis than most anywhere else. In 1938 Frank Capra directed and Jimmy Stewart starred in the motion picture adaptation. It has become a perennial high school play favorite in the intervening years. So why is The Rep opening this year’s run with this antique?
Penny Sycamore: Donald, were you ever in a monastery?
Donald: No, I don’t go no place much. I’m on relief.
The Rep can put on a play better than any high school, but closer to the point are the similar economic times that existed then to those that exist today. You Can’t Take It with You never touches upon economics, except perhaps with its title. Its story revolves around the Sycamore family. Led by Grandpa Vanderhof (played by Joneal Joplin, the hardest working actor in Saint Louis), who quit work thirty-five years ago to pursue his passion of attending commencements, a bigger bunch of loveable kooks, you could not find anywhere else. None of them seem to have any means of support, except for Rheba, the maid, and Donald, who is on relief, and Alice.
Tony Kirby: Sometimes you’re so beautiful it just gags me.
Alice has left this benighted household and found a secretary’s job on Wall Street. There she has also found Tony, the boss’ son. In the first act, she brings Tony home, who is soon as smitten with the Sycamores as he already is with Alice. That just leaves the ritual of the meeting of the two families.
Grandpa Vanderhof: Maybe it’ll stop you trying to be so desperate about making more money than you can ever use? You can’t take it with you, Mr. Kirby. So what good is it? As near as I can see, the only thing you can take with you is the love of your friends.
In preparation for this meeting, Alice rehearses family on what they should and probably more importantly, not do. All her work and any hope of her family’s cooperation are thrown out the window when Tony brings his parents, the Kirbys, by the night before he is suppose to. Two more acts of hilarity ensue.