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Review: You Can’t Take It With You (Northlight Theatre)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: You Can’t Take It With You (Northlight Theatre)  

You Can’t Take It With You 

Written by Moss Hart & George S. Kaufman
Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd. (map)
thru Dec 13 |  tix: $25-$79  | more info
Check for half-price tickets  



A joyous shot of quirky holiday cheer


Review: You Can’t Take It With You (Northlight Theatre)


Northlight Theatre presents


You Can’t Take It With You

Review by Catey Sullivan 

It’s been labeled a chestnut for decades, but the heart of You Can’t Take it With You beats with vibrance, warmth and authenticity in the Northlight Theatre revival of the 1937 Pulitzer winner.

Fictional families from the Waltons to the Munsters owe a debt to Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s zany Sycamore clan.

Review: You Can’t Take It With You (Northlight Theatre)
The Sycamores are a marvelously quirky, eminently lovable group. Mother Penny (Penny Slusher) is a horrendous writer with unsinkable aspirations toward penning the next Great American Play. Her husband Paul (Brad Armacost) walked away from a lucrative 9-to-5 job so he could pursue his passion for making fireworks. Daughter Essie (Joanne Dubach) has two left feet, the rhythm of a broken clock and a starry-eyed belief that she can become a prima ballerina to rival Pavlova. Her husband Ed (Andy Nagraj) tinkers with graphic design, regularly blanketing the neighborhood with leaflets promulgating mayhem and revolution in impeccably designed fonts. The grand old patriarch of the group is Grandpa Martin (John Judd), a genial fellow who spends his days at commencement speeches and refuses to pay income taxes because he just doesn’t believe in them. .

The stage is set for a comedic clash when the oldest daughter Alice (Lucy Carapetyan), the only conventionally normal member of the Sycamore family, falls in love with Tony Kirby (Bernie Balbot). Tony is a fine young man, but his parents are the prune-faced prim and proper polar opposite of the Sycamores. Can Alice’s wildly unconventional relatives win over the broomstick-stiff Kirbys? You Can’t Take It With You is a comedy, so it’s no spoiler to note that all ends well chez Sycamore.

But before that folksy, feel-good finale, the fish-out-of-water crisis that ignites when the Kirbys come to dinner is a hoot. It’s also a potent reminder that life is short, precious and best spent – as best you’re able – doing what you love.

Director Devon De Mayo’s sprawling ensemble is a delight. It would be altogether too easy for the cast to veer way over the top and to reduce the various Sycamores to cartoonish eccentricities. But under De Mayo’s hand, there’s authenticity even in the wildest moments of the idiosyncratic family.

Review: You Can’t Take It With You (Northlight Theatre)
Review: You Can’t Take It With You (Northlight Theatre)
Review: You Can’t Take It With You (Northlight Theatre)
Review: You Can’t Take It With You (Northlight Theatre)
Review: You Can’t Take It With You (Northlight Theatre)

Armacost brings a childlike playfulness to Paul Sycamore, a man utterly happy in his vocation of crafting sparkly spectacles. Dubach’s Essie is a doe-eyed dreamer who’s enthusiasm for the art of ballet shines joyfully through despite the fact of her tone-deaf clumsiness. As aspiring writer Penny Sycamore, Slusher brings a sly, celebratory sensuality to the stage. Penny Sycamore never actually talks about sex, but you can see the fire within and the gleam in her eye throughout. Hollis Resnik goes full floozy as Gay Wellington, a hilariously drunken ham sandwich of a washed actress that Penny brings home for a staged reading.

Sean Fortunato is also comically memorable as a Russian ex-pat ballet master with a profound disdain for Dyagilev. As Tony Kirby’s judgmental mother, Jennifer Avery starts out looking like she just ate a lemon. Her evolution from prune-faced, disapproving martinet into joy-infused free (or at least freer) spirit is a delight to behold. And as Grandpa Martin, Judd manages to embody homespun human decency without becoming awash in sentimentality.

Think Norman Rockwell, minus the schmaltz, and you’ve got a sense of Northlight’s ‘You Can’t Take it With You. If you’re looking for a shot of holiday cheer minus the sugary sugarplums and religious bromides, you won’t go wrong with this comedic gem.


Rating: ★★★½



You Can’t Take It With You continues through December 13th at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie (map), with performances Tuesdays at 7:30pm, Wednesdays 1pm and 7:30pm, Thursdays 7:30pm, Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 2:30pm and 8pm, Sundays 2:30pm and 7pm.  Tickets are $25-$79, and are available by phone (847-673-6300) or online through their website (check for half-price tickets at More information at  (Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes, includes an intermission)

Review: You Can’t Take It With You (Northlight Theatre)

Photos by Michael Brosilow 




Bradley Armacost (Paul Sycamore), Jennifer Avery (Miriam Kirby), Bernard Balbot (Tony Kirby), Lucy Carapetyan (Alice Sycamore), Patrick Clear (Anthony Kirby), Joanne Dubach (Essie Carmichael), Sean Fortunato (Boris Koenkhov), Kroydell Galima (G-Man 3), Tom Hickey (Wilbur Henderson), John Judd (Martin Vanderhof), Andy Nagraj (Ed Carmichael), Keith Neagle (Mr. De Pinna), Colm O’Reilly (G-Man 2), Ericka Ratcliff (Rheba), Hollis Resnik (Gay Wellington and Grand Duchess Olga Katrina), Samuel Roberson (Donald), Penny Slusher (Penelope Sycamore)

behind the scenes

Devon De Mayo (director), Courtney O’Neill (set design), Izumi Inaba (costume design), Heather Gilbert (lighting design), Kevin O’Donnell (original music, sound design), Kimberly Ann McCann (production stage manager), Katie Klemme (assistant stage manager), Michael Brosilow (photos)


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