The 1936 play “You Can’t Take It With You” is one of the most popular in the repertory, according to Jewel Box patrons. This production is directed by Angela Prock and stars an ensemble cast of seasoned performers who provide a charming evening of comedic theater.
At the center of the action are Alice (Kylie Groom) and her beau Tony (Craig Musser). This young couple has a certain naive chemistry, as Tony tries to overcome Alice’s embarrassment about her eccentric family.
From Grandpa (Paul Smith), who walked out on a corporate job decades before and has never paid his income tax, to his daughter Penny (Dana Billingsley), an aspiring playwright who used to be an aspiring painter, to Penny’s husband, Paul (Glen Hallstrom), who makes fireworks in the basement with the assistance of a delivery man (Larry Harris) who came with a package years before and never left, to daughter Essie (Ali Swift), who is following her mom’s example and is an aspiring ballet dancer, to Essie’s musician-cum-delivery-man husband (James Hartsfield) to the visiting Russian expatriate (Randall Hunter), Alice’s family home is filled with people pursuing their own extraordinary dreams and supporting each other unconditionally.
By contrast, Tony’s father (Paul Tomlin) is a Wall Street financier and his mother (Sidney Greathouse) a socialite, and both are miserable.
Acting as chorus to this melange are the cook/housekeeper Rheba (Tyra Bullock) and her unemployed boyfriend Donald (Valentino Valentin). These two roles are specifically written for black actors, and the play contains several elements of racially charged dialogue and anachronistic references that some may find inappropriate or offensive.
When Tony engineers a visit designed both to show Alice the real value of her crazy family and to expose his parents to a more open and loving way of being in the world, mayhem ensues. The pepper in this stewpot includes a drunken actress (Denise Hughes) and several government types (David Patterson, Roger Oxford) trying to enforce the tax code. In the end, the situation is saved by Russian royalty with technical skills (Paula Parkhust).
Prock and her cast do a lovely job of sharing the genial and affectionate lunacy of Alice’s home, as well as exposing the judgment that society, represented by Tony’s parents and the government guys, heap on those who don’t conform.
The carefully decorated set and believable props promote the suspension of disbelief. Lighting problems in the grid are a nuisance, but if the audience is willing to endure the fact that flickering is bound to occur, it becomes ignorable. The sound design, which includes some technical synchronization of musical pieces, is very well done.
— Anna Holloway,
for The Oklahoman
‘You Can’t Take It
•Where: Jewel Box Theatre, 3700 N Walker.
•When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays through May 4.
•Information: 521-1786 or jewelboxtheatre.org.