We cannot help the way we are. Our eccentricities might amuse some and — naturally — irritate others. But when all is said and done, we cannot change the integral parts that make us unique.
This message is constant throughout Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s comedic play, “You Can’t Take It with You.”
The 1936 theater sensation, which won the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, epitomizes the conception of a quirky U.S. family. This can’t-miss production by Elon University’s Department of Performing Arts is, a commendable story of accepting yourself even when others don’t.
Set in the heart of the Great Depression, the play introduces a note of levity for audience members to roar with laughter. It is different from anything I have seen before, but the familiar discomfort from meeting in-laws is all too relateable in society today. I would dare call this production the first of dysfunctional American comedies like the classic 2000 film “Meet the Parents.”
The hit play centers on the Sycamores — an odd, yet lovable family that seems out of touch with everyone. The patriarch of the family, Grandpa Vanderhof, has no formal schedule, devoting his time to playing darts and taking occasional trips to the zoo. His relatives follow his example, as no one appears to have a “real” job.
Tensions rise when Alice, the only conventional Sycamore, falls in love with Tony Kirby — a young, wealthy gentleman from an uptight family. When they first meet, Alice’s relatives fail to impress the Kirbys.
This raucous encounter between the two families is laugh-out-loud funny as the delightful Sycamores try to find common ground with the Kirbys’ peevish disposition. Mr. Kirby is opposite of Grandpa in every way. But by the end of the play, it seems as though Mr. Kirby isn’t really a curmudgeon after all.
It’s clear from the first moment of the play that the characters do not succumb to others’ expectations. Even Grandpa, who is innocently doubtful of governmental regulations, stands up to anyone who questions his integrity. And unlike many large families, the Sycamores truly appreciate their diverse personalities.
This might seem odd to the average person, but that is the beauty of theater as a form of escapism. The dramatic personae of this play frolic about in every scene without fear or apprehension. They inspired me to be a spontaneous kind of person, which is something I’m sure audiences during the Great Depression wanted as well.
This offbeat comedy is a refreshing change of direction from the current social and political environment facing our country, which directly impacts us Elon students. The Sycamores are definitely strange, but unlike the rest of the world, they always embrace their authentic and outlandish traits.
As Grandpa Vanderhof explains to Mr. Kirby: “You can’t take it with you ... the only thing you can take with you is the love of your friends.”
The real appeal of this play is its enduring love for family and the challenge to embrace every idiosyncratic talent one possesses. It might be cliche, but being yourself with those you love is in any case a gift worth taking.
For us students struggling to meet deadlines and preparing for a lucrative career, it is a reminder that it is better to live a life you want rather than one others want for you.
So, please, do yourself a favor and go see this play. With its meticulous set design and enjoyable performances by the cast, “You Can Take It with You” will have you smiling from ear to ear.