by Shirley Lorraine
Classic comedy commences at Conejo
You Can’t Take It with You, a comedy penned by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, premiered to acclaim in 1936. It won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1937 and went on to become immortalized in film in 1938 (with some plot alterations), winning an Oscar for Best Picture.
Conejo Players in Thousand Oaks opened its 2020 season with its rendition of this classic comedy featuring an abundance of energy, laughter and sterling performances. Director Alan Waserman has assembled a cast fully up to the challenge to keep the audience engaged and in stitches for the entire performance.
The story has many facets. It is a social commentary on how two very different social strata view life, happiness and government, and it is a love story embracing the beauty of eccentricities and the ability to adapt.
We are introduced to the Sycamore family along with extended family including “adopted” characters. While they each have their singularities, they somehow function quite well as a unit, to the surprise of others.
Without giving away the pearls of how each family member came to their talents per se, suffice it to say that it somehow all makes sense in the bigger picture.
Ronna Jones portrays Penny Sycamore, a writer and painter of sorts. Her husband Paul, played by Jim Miller, matches her “whatever happens” attitude with aplomb. The patriarch, Grandpa, (Donn Robinson) steers the family with a steady hand and sharp mind.
The two Sycamore daughters, Alice and Essie, are opposites. Alice (Timorah Brown) is the sensible one, holding down a full-time job and falling in love with the vice-president of her company, the owner’s son Tony Kirby (Carl Garcia). Sycamore sister Essie (Briana Bauer) is in lifelong training to become a ballet dancer, which she practices nonstop. She and her husband, Ed, (Alex Carrasco) live in the family home where Ed enjoys using his printing press and making music.
Also gracing the home are a Mr. de Pinna (Jim Diderrich) who fashions fireworks in the basement. The cook Rheba (Carla Ames) is practically a member of the family as is her boyfriend Donald (Daniel Krause) who is on permanent “relief”.
Gabriel Vega is a Russian dance coach Boris Kolenkhov, a frequent dinner guest. Vivian Latham takes a hilarious comic turn as actress Gay Wellington, who has clearly had one or two too many martinis.
When the boss and his wife, Mr. & Mrs. Kirby (Robert Craig and Cindy Lopez) arrive on the scene on the wrong night, son Tony admits he told them the wrong night on purpose, in order to be sure the two families were their true selves. Predictable chaos ensued.
The evening provided an escalating deluge of laughs as the families collided. Superior comedic timing was employed by all as the pace rose. At times one didn’t know where to focus. There was a lot going on.
The show is a lot of fun and gives a much-needed opportunity for laughter. Enjoy the quirky characters in all their glory.
You Can’t Take It with You runs through February 1 at Conejo Players Theatre, 351 S Moorpark Rd, Thousand Oaks. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. There will be one Thursday night, Jan. 16 at 8 p.m. Contact www.ConejoP)layers.org or (805) 495-3715 for tickets.