Spring play offers laughs, life lesson

 Molly Boland and Jarod Bowers star as Alice Sycamore and Tony Kirby, whose relationship is threatened by their dissimilar backgrounds.
Molly Boland and Jarod Bowers star as Alice Sycamore and Tony Kirby, a couple whose relationship is threatened by their dissimilar family backgrounds. Photo by Ian Lexvold.

It has physical comedy, as when the ballet teacher tells the stockbroker, “You would make a great wrestler. You were built for it,” and then accidentally decks him.

It has outrageous situations, such as the mother writing plays because “eight years ago, a typewriter was delivered here by mistake.”

It has a lesson, that a successful career may not be the best goal in life, if it harms your health and your relationships.

“You Can’t Take It with You,” which opened May 3 and concludes this weekend, stars Molly Boland and Jarod Bowers as Alice Sycamore and Tony Kirby, a young couple in love. They are very likable and do an admirable job.

The exceptional performance in this play, however, comes from Amanda Hennen as Alice’s mother, Penny Sycamore.

Amanda Hennen is Penny Sycamore, the mother of working girl Alice.
Amanda Hennen is Penny Sycamore, the mother of working girl Alice. Photo by Ian Lexvold.

Hennen uses her voice to shape the character as a woman who is sure of herself and her role in the family.

She is capable of humor and insight, and leads the cast from a beginning with quite a few characters to a climax that makes it clear why each one is there. And because of her enunciation and projection, it’s easy to hear what she’s saying.

Zach Marleau as Alice’s grandfather, Martin Vanderhof, also is excellent. He walks with a limp and is made up to look older, but it’s his acting sense—his presence, voice and timing—that really help him pull this off.

Alice’s father, Paul Sycamore, is played by Jacob Rue. He also does a good job.

Anderson plays ballet teacher Boris Kolenkhov  and Aryn Ritchie is his student Essie Charmichael.
Blaine Anderson plays ballet teacher Boris Kolenkhov, and Aryn Ritchie is his student, Essie Charmichael. Photo by Ian Lexvold.

The large cast includes several standouts. Blaine Anderson as the ballet teacher Kolenkhov delivers every line in a thick Russian accent, and yet every line is clear and easy to understand.

Kellie Wambold has a lot of fun with her over-the-top portrayal of a drunken actress.

Aryn Ritchie and Nate Brown, as Alice’s sister and brother-in-law, help keep the plot moving.

Mr. Kirby is played by Matt Vincent, who does such a good job it’s easy think of him as Mr. Kirby, not a high school student playing a role.

Allison Koneczny as Mrs. Kirby handles her small part very well. Her discomfort when she and her husband visit Alice’s eccentric family on the wrong night, when the snakes have not yet been hidden away and a drunken actress occupies the sofa, is almost palpable.

One of the funniest points is thanks to Graham Westphal as Mr. DePinna, a friend of Alice’s father who helps him make fireworks in the basement. He seems until then to be just one more odd character.

But when Westphal gets his moment, he makes the best of it, working the audience until everyone is laughing.

Much of the comedy comes from dialog. Listen for these favorites:

Zach Marleau as Martin Vanderhof and Tommy Brockman as Mr. Henderson debate the merits of income taxes.
Zach Marleau, as Martin Vanderhof, and Tommy Brockman, as Mr. Henderson, debate the merits of income taxes. Photo by Ian Lexvold.

When Brown’s character Ed Carmichael starts to draw the attention of a stranger, someone says there’s been a lot of kidnapping lately. “Yes, but not of Ed,” Grandpa replies.

When Mrs. Sycamore criticizes Mrs. Kirby’s hobby, spiritualism, someone points out that Mrs. Sycamore has one or two hobbies of her own. “Yes, but not silly ones,” she says.

Olga, the Russian princess who now works in America as a waitress, may not be as believable in her role, but she gets a good laugh when she says she’s been told, “Olga, do not be stingy with the blintzes.”

“You Can’t Take It with You,” by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, was written in the 1930s.

The printing press and references to communism seem dated, and I wondered what these young students knew about  their great-grandparents’ era.

Coming out of our own recession, with home foreclosures and unemployment, I also hoped no student was taking seriously Grandpa Vanderhof’s economic advice, which includes letting others do the work and avoiding the payment of taxes.

But I left grateful for the chance to see this play. When these high school kids put themselves in the public eye, you feel like you know them. You don’t, of course—it’s just play acting—but you recognize their faces, and you know what they’re capable of.

What makes some teens want to be on the stage, spending hours memorizing their lines and rehearsing, while others are on the athletic field, holding down a job or playing video games?

Whatever it is, we should appreciate their sharing themselves in this way. Come to the final weekend of “You Can’t Take It with You” and let them entertain you.

The Forest Lake High School spring play has a lot to offer. Because of the adult theme of a game at the center of the story, however, it probably is not a good choice for kids.

The spring play will be presented Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 9-11, in the Forest Lake High School auditorium.

All shows begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are general admission, $6 for adults and $4 for students and seniors, sold at the door.