You Can’t Take It With You, North Lakeside Players. Nostalgists lauding the so-called extended family often ignore the economic factors that require several generations to live under one roof. They’re probably visualizing instead a tribal commune like the one in George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s 1936 classic, where a young married couple in the Sycamore household might require the elders’ permission to have a baby–another mouth to feed, you know–but “communism” means little more than family cottage industries, and the Great Depression is a problem only for the servants.
This North Lakeside Players production, staged by Linda LeVeque in the living room of a 1928 mansion, seats us in the Sycamore parlor, where we get the full impact of this genial screwball comedy’s warmth and populist wisdom. Fortunately the ensemble, from Phil Carlin as the sagacious patriarch to RonNell Weaver as an uncaricatured indigent, scale their performances to the intimate space; unhurried phrasing and a conversational volume effectively integrate even the occasional anachronism.
A philosophy advocating personal fulfillment over material gain may be subversive in a capitalist nation, but it has its attractions in 2003, when many people are confronting an involuntary leisure. Kaufman and Hart paint a somewhat idealized picture, but it is a comforting one.