In recent years the Centralia College theatre department has not shied away from controversial and sometimes uncomfortable subject matter.
The friendly romp “You Can’t Take It With You” opening Friday, Nov. 15 in the Wickstrom Studio Theatre features prominently a subject that feels like it has become controversial in recent years: love.
“It’s a light hearted story about what’s really valuable, what are you really living for?” said actress Lucy Page. “The way things are now, it’s nice to talk about the important things in life.”
Written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, “You Can’t Take It With You” follows the story of the artsy, laid-back Sycamore family where members are generally encouraged to follow their bliss. Mother Penny (portrayed by Page) is a playwright because a typewriter was once mistakenly dropped off at their house, daughter Essie (portrayed by Scarlet Nixon Klein) wants to be a famous ballerina and has studied for eight years without much success and grandfather Martin Vanderhoff (portrayed by D. Douglas Lukascik) quit the rat race at age 40 and spent the last 35 years doing what he likes with his days, including not paying his taxes.
“(His attitude is) no matter what they do to me, I’ve had the last 35 years and nobody can take that from me,” Lukascik said of his character. “Life is beautiful if you just let it come to you.”
But the Sycamore clan is about to have their world turned upside down when youngest daughter Alice (portrayed by Isabel Nixon Klein) announces she is dating Tony Kirby (portrayed by Jordan Baker). The Kirbys and local business moguls and are about as different from the Sycamores as possible: stuffy and status-focused. Though Tony is the vice president of his father’s company, he is something of a misfit and meeting the Sycamores shows him something he’s never seen before.
“It’s a shock but it’s a shock he enjoys,” Baker said of his character meeting Alice’s family. “Alice is embarrassed but he falls in love with the eccentricity of everyone.”
Though Alice puts on a good façade, there is no denying she is part of the Sycamore clan. As a planned dinner with Tony’s family nears, Alice attempts to get her family to behave themselves so as to not shock the Kirbys, who probably don’t make fireworks in the basement for fun or eat corn flakes for dinner.
“Alice loves her family but her family is odd and, in my mind, she is trying to protect her family from the outside world,” said Isabel Nixon Klein.
Fireworks (both literal and figurative) happen when the Kirbys show up to the Sycamore home for a planned dinner, though on the wrong night. There are misunderstandings and hurt feelings but everyone learns something about the family we have and the family we choose as well as the value of honesty, said director Thomas Perkins.
“It’s about love for the family, really valuing the power of family, and really just enjoying life in general,” Perkins said of the story.
“It’s about don’t take life too seriously because you can’t take it with you,” added Scarlet Nixon Klein. “Don’t just keep getting money because at the end of your life, it doesn’t matter. Enjoy life while you can.”
“You Can’t Take It With You” is a directorial debut for Thomas Perkins, who graduated from Centralia College two years ago, was asked by drama professor Emmy Kreilkamp to try his hand at directing an entire production. Perkins said he had previously taken a directing course, where he got the opportunity to direct a segment of a performance, but this is his first experience directing a full-length production.
“It really opens up your mind in a way,” Perkins said of going from being an actor to a director. “All of a sudden you’re seeing the stage as an audience member. It’s definitely a challenge to find the right people to get everything done.”
Baker, who just finished a grueling summer preparing for the two-man show “Red” that played in the Wickstrom Theatre in September, said it was Perkins that convinced him to sign on for this show. He said the two have worked together as actors and he was excited to work with him as a director.
“I just knew it was going to be great,” Baker said. “(Perkin’s) mind and this play is going to be a match made in heaven.”