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What: “You Can’t Take It With You”
Who: Imagination Theater
Where: Playhouse on the El Dorado County Fairgrounds, 100 Placerville in Placerville
When: Friday, March 28 through Saturday, April 19
Cost: All Tickets are $15 and groups $12
Imagination Theater’s latest play, “You Can’t Take It With You,” presents a frolicking, fun-loving family that will convince the audience that life is to be enjoyed, not taken so seriously.
Do take seriously, however, the chance to catch this Pulitzer prize-winning story as it runs from Friday, March 28 through Saturday, April 19 at the theater on the El Dorado County Fairgrounds, 100 Placerville in Placerville.
Directed by Brenda Lindley, the cast features 18 talented performers who will bring the story of the Vanderhof family to life, with all its eccentric characters and bright vignettes that will leave the crowd smiling, chuckling and laughing outright as the plot unfolds.
Grandpa Vanderhof is the patriarch of the wacky family, which includes the Sycamores and Carmichaels, a clan that is introduced in the first of three acts.
Veteran IT performer John Prock depicts Grandpa, a character who has never paid income taxes and must deal with that situation as the central plot, a love story between his granddaughter Alice and Tony Kirby, the son of a rich, uptight family, forms the basis of the lively play.
“It’s about two young people who fall in love but are from very different families,” said Prock. “Alice’s family is eccentric and the different family members pretty much do what they want and say what they want. That contrasts with the family of Tony Kirby, who are staid, Wall Street types. The interplay of values is what makes the story resonate.”
For the actor who has been seen in IT productions including “White Christmas,” “Man of La Mancha” and “Lil’ Abner,” he said the role of Grandpa in “You Can’t Take It With You” was a “natural progression.”
From stage to real life
“It’s certainly a challenging part,” said Prock, “but it’s also fitting that I do this part because in July I will become a real grandpa.”
The proud grandpa-to-be said a little girl soon will become part of the Prock clan.
Prock might take some of his character’s traits into his real-life granddaughter’s future, as he explained that Grandpa Vanderhof’s mission “is to make people relax and not worry so much.”
He added that the fact that Grandpa Vanderhof tangles with an IRS agent in the play might well appeal to the local audience as well.
“I think there is a certain percentage of El Dorado County residents who would applaud the fact that he doesn’t believe in paying taxes to the government,” said Prock, laughing. “What I would like people to take away from the play, though, is that life is to be enjoyed and that love is more important than money.”
This is Prock’s first time under the direction of Lindley, although the two have acted together in past IT performances.
“She played my assistant concierge in ‘White Christmas,'” recalled Prock. “She’s really very talented.”
Lindley brings that talent all the way from Auburn to rehearse, act and direct at Placerville’s IT ensemble and she said she and husband Erick don’t mind the commute from their home in Placer County for one good reason: “IT is a great theater because all the actors and others involved are like family, it really is that simple,” said Brenda Lindley. “So many people volunteer to help IT, putting in so many hours — and there’s so much talent here. We are willing to make the commute because it’s our favorite theater,” she said, adding that she and Erick have been involved in several community theater groups for many years. In fact, Erick plays Edward Carmichael in the upcoming IT production.
“You Can’t Take It With You” is Brenda Lindley’s fourth play with IT, having had onstage parts in “Quilters,” “White Christmas” and “Les Miserables.”
Although the current play is not her first shot at directing, she said the story struck a chord with her and that she jumped at the chance to be involved.
“I love the family,” she said of the Vanderhof/Sycamore/Carmichael bunch. “They live life to its fullest, enjoying every moment. I think that’s something we all need to be reminded of.”
Although “You Can’t Take It With You” usually is described as a comedy, the play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart that premiered in New York in 1936 won the Pulitzer prize for drama.
A movie by the same title starring James Stewart and Jean Arthur in 1938 won two Academy Awards, for Best Picture and Best Director for Frank Capra.
The 15-year-old Imagination Theater is up to the challenge of presenting the critically acclaimed, heartwarming story to local audiences, with “You Can’t Take It With You” being presented by longtime IT Producer Lanny Langston.
While Grandpa Vanderhof is arguably the central character in the frolicking play, a delightfully quirky lady named Penny Sycamore, one of the crazy clan, brings a sparkling wit to the stage as she orchestrates the family getting ready to greet Alice’s new beau and his family to their hilarious home.
Fans of local theater will recognize the multi-talented Lorrene Baum-Davis playing the part, in a role she said was meant for her.
“I love the character,” Baum-Davis began. “She is really, really funny. She’s a little bit ditzy and she says what she wants to say, when she wants to say it. They’re innocent comments but they come out sounding rude sometimes. She’s just oblivious to the pandemonium she causes around her.”
In addition to starring in El Dorado County plays since the days of Theater El Dorado back in the 1970s, Baum-Davis also is an accomplished jewelry maker, with her art taking her throughout the country.
She had this advice for anyone wondering whether a trip to Imagination Theater should be on their itinerary for the upcoming run of “You Can’t Take It With You.”
“The audience should have a lot of laughs, if we do it right and I think they will go away with a life-changing experience,” said the seasoned actress.
Joining Baum-Davis, Prock and Erick Lindley in the cast are Amanda Anderson as Alice Sycamore, Steven Kliner as Tony Kirby, Rick Gaylord as Mr. Kirby, Ali LaVanway as Essie Carmichael, Sean Conley-Widing as Boris Kolenkhov, Blake Lawton as Paul Sycamore, Dan Clark as Mr. DePinna, Kathleen Mini as Mrs. Kirby, Erika Maruri as the Grand Duchess Olga Katrina, Jody Willis as Gay Wellington, Toni Conley-Widing as Rheba, Jeff Jackson as Donald, Tim Klemens as Wilbur Henderson, with FBI agents played by Janice Le Pouvoir and Diana Granger.
All tickets are $15 and the group rate is $12.
For show times visit imaginationtheater.net or call 530-642-0404.