Legendary writing partners George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart came into their own in 1936 with You Can’t Take It With You. Set in the Manhattan home of the eccentric extended Vanderhof family, it’s a screwball comedy without the wise guy. Riley Berris, who directed the production that plays Thursday-Sunday, November 3-6 (smhstheaterdept.com), at San Marcos High School, said that the first question her cast had about the show was “Who’s the main character?” The answer was in her smile — “You all are.” Thanks to the fierce ingenuity and relentless craft of Kaufman and Hart, 15 of the show’s 19 characters qualify as principals, and all their story lines reach to the very end of its three hilarious acts.
Alice, the most normal of the Vanderhof clan, falls for Tony Kirby, the son of a repressed wealthy couple with a fortune made on Wall Street. Alice fears that once her potential in-laws meet her crazy family, the deal will be off. When Tony and his parents show up for dinner a night early, there’s no time for the Vanderhofs to make even the slightest pretense of sanity.
Despite some minor inconveniences (including everyone getting arrested!), it turns out that the uptight Kirbys actually needed a little Vanderhof madness in their lives. For Berris, who is now in her third year running the theater program at San Marcos, the beauty is in getting to know so many promising young actors. “I tell them it’s more about living onstage as the character than about hitting some perfect beat with your line,” she said. “I find what’s funny every day with them.” Audiences this weekend will surely do the same.
Santa Barbara and Dos Pueblos high schools are also presenting plays this week. The Dons are tackling Mel Brooks’s hilarious Young Frankenstein (Nov. 4-5 and 11-13; sbhstheatre.com), while the Chargers bring The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Nov. 4-5, 10, and 12; dptheatrecompany.org) to the stage.