You can tell it’s spring in Chenango County by the plethora of happenings that fill our calendars this weekend. At the first sign of promising good weather, local events start popping up in droves. This weekend, the first in May, is a particularly busy one, sure to offer something for everyone.
You can go for a run with the Allegro race, get your family into healthy habits with Chenango on the Move, peruse local artists’ wares at the spring craft show, go to a prom (one for adults, one for kids), or do what I did last night – cap off a day’s worth of activities by enjoying a high school theater production.
The kids in the Sherburne-Earlville Drama Club, under the expert direction of Colleen Law-Tefft, are staging “You Can’t Take It With You” tonight and Saturday at 7 p.m. in the S-E auditorium. Depending on which night you go, it’s either the perfect start, or the perfect finish to a jam-packed Chenango County Saturday.
I don’t think anything fits the description “screwball comedy” better than “You Can’t Take It With You,” a classic drawing-room farce by Moss Hart and George Kaufman. Set in New York City in the mid-1930s, the play centers around a young couple, Alice Sycamore (Ellen Fagan) and Tony Kirby (Joe Mettler), who fall in love and face the challenge of blending their two decidedly different families. Tony’s parents, played by Mark Wessing and Stephanie Joyce, are stiff upper-crust Wall Street types and Alice’s family ... well, there’s a cast of unusual characters. The play takes place entirely in the Sycamore family’s living room, which ends up more like the day room of a mental hospital. Alice’s mother, Penny (Justine Cameron) is a frustrated playwright who’s never actually finished a play; her father Paul (Chris Dushko) makes fireworks in the basement; sister Essie (Brenda Hoefler) is a talent-deprived ballet dancer; and grandfather Martin (Adrian Enscoe) quit his job 35 years ago and hasn’t done much since. Throw in some weird in-laws, servants and neighborhood freaks, and you can see why Alice is hesitant to allow Tony into her world.
Even with a compressed rehearsal schedule, Colleen and her crew have pulled off quite an entertaining show. As always, I give the S-E drama troupe kudos for tackling lesser-known (at least in this century) fare. Nice touch picking a Moss Hart play, too, as his wife, well-known TV personality and New York arts patron Kitty Carlisle Hart, recently passed away. Miss Hart graced Chenango County a couple times with her presence; it’s too bad she couldn’t have seen the S-E kids do her husband’s work justice this weekend.
I’ve had the pleasure of attending countless high school productions over the years, but I haven’t had this much fun in a long time. While the cast as a whole is brilliant, the shining moments in “You Can’t Take It With You” really belong to the girls. Particularly impressive were Bekah Riley’s wise-cracking maid Rheba; Justine Cameron’s flighty mama portrayal shows crack comedic timing; Ellen Fagan lends a Julia Stiles-esque quality to the put-upon Alice; and Katherine Wansor steals a couple moments as a soused actress. The real standout in my eyes, however, was Brenda Hoefler as the ditzy Essie, whose high-pitched voice and effervescent charm make her every line a laugh out loud.
As I sat through the dress rehearsal Thursday night, there were still quite a few kinks to be worked out before tonight’s curtain – but that in itself is one of the joys of high school theater. One of the curses of high school theater, I’ve noticed over the years, is any play that relies on a ring – doorbell or phone – as a plot point. Invariably, student thesps will stand like deer caught in headlights waiting for the errant sound effect or, like last night, be forced to answer the door when the telephone rings. Happens every time.
Plenty of talent, plenty of laughs, and even a good lesson to be learned at the end. There’s a lot to do in Chenango County over the weekend, but do yourselves a favor and pack one more in – “You Can’t Take It With You.”