Some stories defy time. Regardless of the time they are written and what time they are written about, some old stories ring true despite the era that retells them. “You Can’t Take It With You” (YCTIWY) was written and copyrighted in 1937 chronicling two very diverse families; the very relaxed Sycamore’s and the uptight Kirby’s.
As a play, the writers Hart and Kaufman won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1937. The movie version directed by Frank Capra and acted by Jimmy Stewart and Lionel Barrymore won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director in 1938.
The story was on Broadway stages for 838 consecutive performances from December 1936 to November 1938. Plus a Broadway reprise in 1983 to 1985, then again in 2014 with James Earl Jones as grandpa.
In addition to the Oscar award winning movie in 1938, there was a 1979 movie with an all star cast and a 1987 sit com.
The play is popular among theater programs of high school institutions, and has been one of the 10 most-produced school plays every year since amateur rights became available in 1939.
The story? Quite simply it is a story celebrating eccentricity and unconventional living. Granted our eccentric family in YCTIWY lives a very different variety of unconventional than today’s definition of unconventional.
How so? For instance. Mr. Sycamore and his friend Mr. Da Pinna make illegal fireworks in the basement and sell them from a booth at Mt. Vernon. Essie (Sycamore) Carmichael and her husband Ed sell homemade candies wrapped in communist quotes from Trotsky. Grandpa Vanderhof earns an income from properties that he owns, but never files his income with the Internal “Something Or The Other.” (That last one borders on timely…)
How would we write the characters today? Ed would not need Essie’s candy to distribute his writings, he’d be a blogger or Tic Toc influencer. Mr. Sycamore and Mr. Da Pinna might be cooking up illegal drugs in the basement.
Grandpa would still be collecting rent without letting the IRS know. The butler Donald who works for free meals and collects “relief” from the government would still be collecting welfare or unemployment compensation while working small jobs for cash or meals.
Like many stories it is also a love story. Boy meets girl, young Anthony Kirby Jr. and Alice Sycamore. Boy and girl fall in love while working together at Kirby & Company. Alice is the girl Friday for Tony’s rich Wall Street father Anthony Kirby Sr. Boy and girl are pulled apart by Mr. and Mrs. Kirby’s lack of acceptance of the Sycamore family and their unconventional lifestyle. Boy and girl get back together after an altercation between Mr. Kirby and Grandpa.
That was a lot of words that could’ve been reduced to; “You Can’t Take It With You” is a very funny and energetic show. Come and see it will you?
Who’s in it? Great question. Here’s the cast:
The Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre (BDACT)will be staging the production of this story beginning Friday April 14, 2023 at their Fine Arts Center.
Tickets for great seats are available at https://bdact.org/you-cant-take-it-with-you/.