I believe in theatre for entertainment’s sake. I believe a show can be produced/performed over and over by casts ranging from High School drama geeks to accomplished Broadway performers. I believe there are shows that will be seen and loved by audiences for an infinite amount of time. Surely theatre lovers young and old could assemble a sizable list of shows that fit this very bill with discussion, debate and glee. You Can’t Take it With You, Kaufmann and Hart’s 1936 Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy, would be a formidable contender to grace any such list.
For those of you who have unbelievably missed this classic gem… this comedic tale tells the story of blossoming love between Alice Sycamore and Tony Kirby both whom hail from very different families during the Great Depression. The Sycamores are a kooky clan who value their total departure from convention, living by their own chaotic and quirky rules. The Kirby’s can be found on the opposite end of the spectrum living a life filled with rules, structure and propriety. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict the collision of the two worlds, in this case over a surprise dinner at the Sycamore residence. Madness and upheaval ensues. In the end, lessons are learned and love conquers all.
Who better to mount this award-winning piece of classic delight than the award-winning Antaeus Theatre Company? I’ve been a long time fan of this Los Angeles theatre company. I’ve seen a handful of shows over the years, and I can say I’ve never been disappointed. Its production of Mother Courage (many, many moons ago) has remained one of my favorite LA productions of all time. I quite like this company. And… wait for it… much to my surprise; I was a tad let down this time around. Arrrg. How can this be? The cast just wasn’t ready.
The Antaeus Theatre has double cast its productions since the company began in 1991. This is a brilliant tradition, allowing their company members to tend to their more lucrative film and television careers, while gifting them the opportunity to feed their artistic souls on stage. This may be a contributing factor to the minor failure on the evening of my attendance. The cast seemed clumsy with the blocking (understandable due to the ridiculous amount of actors on stage scene after scene) not quite on top of their lines and certainly not on their cues. I’d also question a few of the casting choices. This could be due to the obligation to use company members over the best actors for the role. There are MANY talented actors in Los Angeles and there were a few weak links during the preview performance. There should be no reason for this. The scenic design/properties design (very important to the telling of the Sycamore family story) by Tom Buderwitz and Heather HO respectively, was enchanting as an audience member walking into the theatre but seemed to be a liability to the cast. The collective cast will need to make friends with the set… as they probably will, along with gain ground with the line problems and character development, during the long run of the play. Gigi Bermingham’s delight with this play is clear in her directorial style. No doubt the entire cast will uniformly fulfill the delivery requirements on short order.
I’m willing to say this show just needed another week on its feet before they brought the audience in. It’s a common problem… certainly with a cast of this size– and especially because of the double cast preference of the theatre.
My expectations of the Antaeus Theatre Company are admittedly high. The show, for me, was a disappointment to a certain extent. But I believe in the company as a whole and have confidence the actors will rise to the challenge… certainly by the time you read this. If you are in search of a jolly, laughter-filled evening where you can be transported to a better time and place, consider spending an evening at the Sycamore home, care of the Antaeus Theatre Co. Like many of its inhabitants, you may not want to leave.
5112 Lankershim Blvd North Hollywood.
Thru Dec. 9, Thursday-Sunday.