reviewed by Adam Crowe

Indy in springtime brings us the season closing production at Indiana Repertory Theater. And like my foray last week to Carmel Community Players, IRT is finishing its 2018-2019 season with a 20th century classic. Unlike the drama in Carmel, however, IRT is re-visiting a comedy classic, George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s You Can’t Take It With You.

from left: Aaron Kirby (Tony Kirby), David Lively (Mr. Kirby), Alice (Jaynce Caraballo), Carmen Roman (Mrs. Kirby), and Joey Collins (Boris Kolenkhov) in IRT’s production of “You Can’t Take It With You”.

Written in 1937 and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, You Can’t Take It With You introduces audiences to the Vanderhof/Sycamore family. Headed by Grandpa Vanderhof, the family and their live-in guests probably serve as the template for most of the wacky families created in later 20th century fiction. The central plot finds daughter Alice in love with her wealthy Boss’ son and when the two mismatched families come together, the comedy is both ridiculous and sublime. You’ll likely never play a word game again without thinking of them. Kaufman and Hart aren’t just playing at farce. Underneath the comedy are lessons in understanding, acceptance, and what constitutes the real things of value in life. It may have been written over 80 years ago, but You Can’t Take It With You is as relevant as ever. No arch, post-modern irony or sarcasm here. The comedy is broad, absurd and delightful.

Mehry Eslaminia (Essie) and Robert Elliott (Grandpa Vanderhof) in IRT’s production of “You Can’t Take It With You”.

IRT regular Bob Elliot plays witty and wise Grandpa. His daughter Penny is played by Milicent Wright. Both performers beautifully hit every laugh and every moment of heart. James Leaming is Penny’s husband Paul Sycamore and Janyce Caraballo is daughter Alice, in love with young Mr. Kirby (Aaron Kirby), who’s parents are played by David Lively and Carmen Roman, and who seem to represent the more logical, conventional viewpoints of “society”. All eventually fall to the irresistible powers of the Vanderhof/Sycamore influence.

Adam Tran (Donald), Carlos Medina Maldonado (Ed), Milicent Wright (Penny), and (on bed) Molly Garner (Gay Wellington) in IRT’s production of “You Can’t Take It With You”.

Also residing in the Vanderhof house, a fantastic bit of scenic design and execution, are Mr. Depinna (Ansley Valentine), Rheba (Brianna Milan), Alice’s sister Essie (Mehry Eslaminia), and Essie’s husband Ed (Carlos Medina Maldonado). Visiting guests throughout the two act play include Mr. Kolenkhov (Joey Collins) – who is Essie’s ballet instructor, Rheba’s boyfriend Donald (Adam Tran) and Grand Dutchess Olga Katrina (Jan Lucas). I won’t try to explain how all of these characters intersect and move the story along, as I don’t wish to spoil the fun. Suffice to say, Director Peter Amster’s inspired choreography of this menagerie is theatrical magic and his cast is a joy to watch. And I can’t forget those in smaller roles, who get less stage time, but are just as much fun to watch. Kudos to Scot Greenwell, Michael Hosp, Zachariah Stonerock, and especially Molly Garner.

Ansley Valentine (Mr. De Pinna), James Leaming (Paul Sycamore), and Scot Greenwell (Henderson) in IRT’s production of “You Can’t Take It With You”.

Special recognition also goes to the designers, especially Linda Buchanan, who, with the help of the IRT scene shop and props department, has pulled out all the stops. Tracy Dorman’s costumes tell just the right story for each character, and Michael Lincoln and Andrew Hopson’s lights and sound are equally evocative.

I strongly encourage you to make a date with this amazing family. At a time when it feels like all there is between Americans is division, a couple of hours with this bunch will lift you spirits and your heart!

Kauffman and Hart’s You Can’t Take It With You continues on the IRT Mainstage through May 19th at 140 West Washington Street in downtown Indianapolis. Tickets may be purchased by visiting the website at or by calling (317) 635-5252.

  • – photos by Zach Rosing