Review: Do not miss “You Can’t Take It With You”

Review: Do not miss “You Can’t Take It With You”

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Photo courtesy Bob Diven A typical evening in the Sycamore home.  Brandon Brown as Paul Sycamore, David Edwards as Grandpa, and Autumn Gieb as Essie Sycamore.
A typical evening in the Sycamore home. Brandon Brown as Paul Sycamore, David Edwards as Grandpa, and Autumn Gieb as Essie Sycamore. (Photo by Bob Diven)

By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin

“If you go see “You Can’t Take It With You” at Las Cruces Community Theatre – and you really, really should – you will understand why this play continues to be revived on stage and screen after almost 80 years; and why the LCCT production is so good and so much fun.

The play is about a houseful of eccentric people writing plays, learning ballet, running a printing press and making fireworks, among other activities. The production features three real-life couples playing opposite each other, and collectively one of the best acting ensembles you will ever see.

Lennie Brown, and real-life husband, Brandon, are Penny and Paul Sycamore. Karen Buerdsell (I loved her Irish accent and red hair!) and Teddy Aspen-Sanchez are Rheba, the maid, and her boyfriend, Donald, the Sycamores’ handyman – and they are an item in real life too, just like Autumn Gieb, who plays Penny’s sister, Essie, and Bobby Senecal, who plays Essie’s husband, Ed.

Essie is taking ballet lessons from Boris Kolenkhov (Bob Diven), who escaped from Russia just before the Russian Revolution. He brings Countess Olga Katrina (Caryl Kotulak) to the Sycamore household, where she fits right now. The countess also fled Russia and now is a waitress. Ed will produce almost anything on his printing press, from the evening’s dinner menu to a few paragraphs that visiting government agents (Terry Troutman, Jason Wyatt and Edward Montes) view as a communist manifesto.

The Sycamores’ daughter, Alice (Erin Wendorff) falls in love with her boss’ son, Tony (Jeff Dolecek).

Tony’s parents, Anthony and Miriam (P.J. Waggaman and Ilene Steele) come to dinner on the wrong night. Mr. Kirby is a big shot on Wall Street, and Mrs. Kirby is a leading socialite; so you can imagine their reaction as they walk in to the Sycamore household to find Essie is dancing in her tutu; Penny touching up a portrait of Mr. de Pinna (Doug Roby) in period costume; visiting actress Gay Wellington (Gail Wheeler – brief but brilliant in this part) is passed out on the couch; and Paul without his pants jotting down numbers in a corner.

Photo by Vanessa Dabovich, LCCT The cast of Las Cruces Community Theatre’s production of “You Can’t Take It With You” includes, left to right, standing, Autumn Gieb, Bobby Senecal, Jeff Dolecek and P.J. Waggaman; and seated, Lennie Brown, Erin Wendorff and Caryl Kotulak.
Photo by Vanessa Dabovich, LCCT
The cast of Las Cruces Community Theatre’s production of “You Can’t Take It With You” includes, left to right, standing, Autumn Gieb, Bobby Senecal, Jeff Dolecek and P.J. Waggaman; and seated, Lennie Brown, Erin Wendorff and Caryl Kotulak.

The only sane one in the whole bunch is Grandpa Martin Vanderhof (David Edwards), who gave up a job he hated 35 years earlier so he could enjoy the things he loves, like darts, snakes and his slightly off-center family and friends. He even enjoys a visit from an IRS (likely called the Bureau of Internal Revenue in the 1930s) agent (again, Edward Montes), who tells Grandpa he owes more than 23 years in back taxes.

It’s quite a cast of characters, and quite a cast. Many of these actors have graced Las Cruces stages – and a bunch of movies – for literally decades, and bring their amazing collection of theatrical experiences, talent, timing and joy to this wonderful production. The relative newcomers also sparkle – and you simply have not lived until you’ve seen Doug Roby in a short toga from the front row of the theatre.

Long-time Las Cruces director larrychandler clearly realized what he had in this group, and let them do their thing.

The set, which Roby, his wife, Pat, other cast members, and Marc Forbes, Greta Burger and Bruce Howard built to Roby’s design, is perfectly adapted for this production – and it’s beautiful. You will also love Autumn Gieb’s fabulous costumes – some she made herself, with assistance from Catherine Ivins. Chris Lininger did his usual terrific job with the lights and special effects.

You have two more weekends to see this outstanding show. Do not miss it.

Remaining performances of “You Can’t Take It With You” are Friday and Saturday nights, May 12-13 and 19-20, at 8 p.m. and Sundays, May 14 and 21, at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $12 for adults; $11 for students, seniors and military; $9 for children under age six; and $10 per ticket for groups of 10 or more. Student “rush” tickets will be sold to those with a valid student ID card for $5 15 minutes before curtain time if seats are available. For tickets, call 575-523-1200 or visit https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?show=64570.

For more information and reservations, call 575-523-1200. Visit www.lcctnm.org.

Mike Cook may be reached at mike@lascrucesbulletin.com.

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