|Less than half of the cast of Soulpepper's You Can't Take It With You (|
Soulpepper Theatre Company's production of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman's 75-year-old farcical play You Can't Take It With You is beautifully staged, immaculately acted and frequently one-liner funny.
You knew there was a ‘but’ coming, didn't you? Director Joseph Ziegler has made a major blunder with his production. He took the material and played at face value what, in 2012, should have been processed through some sort of 21st century critical filter. Otherwise all he's doing is staging, at best, a dusty museum piece; or, at worst, a play that verges on being mildly racist. You Can’t Take it with You is more than just dated, it’s downright misguided. In 1936, when this Pulitzer Prize-winning play first hit Broadway, it was probably considered an entertaining piece of wish-fulfilling escapist fluff; something to pass the time during the latter stages of the Depression. Two years later, Frank Capra made it into a movie which went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture, and Capra won for Best Director. I remember seeing the film version many years ago, and finding it endearingly funny. Not so much now.
|Krystin Pellerin & Gregory Prest|
We wouldn't have a farce if this all went well.
So far, so good. The set up is fine and many of the huge cast do a wonderful job, particularly Nancy Palk, Gregory Prest (both in Soulpepper’s Long Day's Journey Into Night from earlier this year, showing their expert range in doing remarkable work in both comedy and tragedy), Eric Peterson (his playful eccentricity is fun), Patricia Fagan (her bad ballet is mostly delightful) Diego Matamoros (his crazed Russian is consistently a delight) and Krystin Pellerin (who probably has the toughest job playing “straight man” to a stage full of quirky nutcases). With such a huge cast, many times with almost all of them all on stage, I watched the other actors to see what they were doing (while two or three other characters were talking). At no point did the actors without dialogue seem disengaged during those moments. That's a tribute to both the talent on stage and Ziegler's skill with the production. A little screechy arm-flapping occurs near the end, but generally irritating antics are well reigned in by Ziegler.
|Director Joseph Ziegler|
Some will say in defence of the play that “this is a light farce, you can't take it seriously.” But, of course, you can. No matter what it is, whether it's a grand tragedy or a 'check your brain at the door' comedy, you must always look at just exactly what it is trying to say. If that 'fluffy' comedy from the Depression era presents ideas, within a comic framework, which just does not match current attitudes, there is something wrong in the state of Denmark. Even Shakespeare is changed and challenged, as it should be, perhaps not in Hamlet, but certainly in The Merchant of Venice whose Shylock is a tricky character because he is held up to anti-Semitic ridicule in the play, acceptable when the play was written, but always examined and critiqued within the framework of any recent production. The same should hold true with a farcical comedy from 75 years ago. Joseph Ziegler's production of You Can’t Take It with You does not do that. And it should have.
here. Or go to http://www.wordplaysalon.com/ for more information (where you can order the book, but only in traditional form!). And yes, he’s begun the long and arduous task of writing his second novel.