March 18, 2010

Harmony Meets Hurricane of Personalities in You Can't Take It With You

By Sarah H. Dolan

Home décor speaks volumes about the personal lives of those who inhabit the home. Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff's home, as portrayed through the set of Regent University Theatre's production of You Can't Take It With You, is eccentric, vibrant and quirky. Bright green walls are full of mismatched photographs, a deer head and gun. Romantic play scripts flower the living room, and snakes inhabit the room's corner comfortably next to the family xylophone.

It is there that the radically diverse Vanderhoff family lives and functions as one disheveled unit. Residing with Grandpa is his daughter Penelope Sycamore, a happy, unpublished playwright; her husband Paul, whose hobby is making fireworks in the cellar; their daughter Essie, a ballerina with two left feet who is married to Ed, a printer who plays the xylophone; and their other daughter Alice, a Wall Street secretary.

"These characters in the play—a family of lovable, innocent, but wacky nonconformists—are joyous examples of faith," said MFA Student Ryan Clemens, the director. "[Teaching life lessons] in a Frank Capra comedic sort of way. They live, they love and they laugh. They thank God for family, health, and all the fun one can find in life!"

Yet the family's idea of normalcy is challenged when Alice is betrothed to Tony Kirby, a businessman from a straight-laced family. When the Kirby and Vanderhoff families collide, the resulting chaos creates a near-literal hurricane of eccentric personalities with Alice and Tony caught in the middle. To worsen the situation, other offbeat characters are introduced to the household as the play unfolds.

"We've had particular fun finding the right balance of silly truthfulness with this cast of characters," Clemens said. "Included among our lovable lot of personalities are a boisterous Russian immigrant and a gin-soaked dramatist ... just to name a few. In Regent's casting quest to find that balance of lunacy and veracity, we created 'The Farm Fresh [grocery store] test.' In other words, 'if you saw one of these characters at Farm Fresh buying cereal, would you believe they were real?'"

Regent's rendition of You Can't Take It With You uses the artistically expressed merriment of the Vanderhoff family to illustrate individuals coming together to form community. The result is a loud mix of song, dance, poetry, painting and fireworks—all at once. But when the dust settles the audience sees a harmony and beauty in this kind of lifestyle, which Grandpa notes is easy to forget.

The production continues Thursday, March 18 - Saturday, March 20 at 8:00 p.m., and Saturday, March 20 - Sunday, March 21 at 3:00 p.m.

For tickets and more information, visit

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