You Can't Take It With You
Patriarch Martin Vanderhof (James Earl Jones) has a charming outlook on life, and his pursuit of what makes him happy (rather than what makes him money) has been an example for his family.
(The family includes Martin's daughter, Penelope (Kristine Nielsen), and her husband, Paul (Mark Linn-Baker); their children, Essie (Annaleigh Ashford) and Alice (Rose Byrne); Essie's husband, Ed (Will Brill, who appeared in the Moss Hart bio-show, Act One); family friend and Paul's "colleague," Mr. DePinna (Patrick Kerr); the help, Rheba (Crystal Dickinson) and Donald (Marc Damon Johnson); and Essie's ballet teacher and family friend, Boris Kolenkhov (Reg Rogers).)
Each family member finds his or her calling and goes for it, no matter how many times that calling changes (Penelope, for example, was once an artist but took up playwriting after a typewriter was mistakenly delivered to the house), and no matter how good they are at it (Essie fancies herself a dancer, wearing pointe shoes around the house and making up dances whenever the spirit moves her). They give little thought to high–class pursuits, sophisticated tastes or others' opinions of them—except for Alice.
The thin plot revolves around Alice's courtship with financier Tony Kirby (Fran Kranz). Alice works at a Wall Street firm and VP Tony is the boss's son. After becoming engaged, Alice entreats her family to act normal at the upcoming engagement party, where the Vanderhofs are set to meet the Kirbys (Byron Jennings and Johanna Day). When Tony gets the date wrong and the Kirbys arrive the night before, they meet the real Vanderhofs and more hilarity ensues.
There are side plots (like income tax evasion) and a couple of interlopers adding to the eccentricity (like actress Gay Wellington (Julie Halston) and Olga (Elizabeth Ashley), possible Russian royalty), but the details are secondary to the point of the show: you can't take it with you, so enjoy the present.
And it's in that vein that Hart and Kaufman's play is so welcome. Seen today, it's a throwback to the slapdash comedies of yesteryear, the kind of buoyant, frivolous entertainments that are meant to do no more than delight audiences. And it does.
Scott Ellis (The Mystery of Edwin Drood) directs an impeccably–timed farce and gets the best out of his esteemed cast. In particular, Tony nominees Kristine Neilsen (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike) and Annaleigh Ashford (Kinky Boots) will bowl you over with their comic chops (the radiant Ashford gives a master class in physical comedy), and the beloved James Earl Jones (The Best Man) commands the stage. Hart and Kaufman's sharp, crisp writing sparks, elevating the fun fluff. If you're looking for a good time and lots of laughs, head to the Longacre Theatre. (And by the way: You can take a kitten with you. Read about how You Can't Take It With You has teamed with the Humane Society to develop a kitten adoption program.)