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Sparks Fly During “You Can’t Take It With You”

Taking audiences through a retro rewind, the play incorporated interactive elements from teh 30's. Photo: Laura Inman

Taking audiences through a retro rewind, the play incorporated interactive elements from the 30’s. Photo: Laura Inman

Fireworks bedazzled the stage, stunning audiences. Left and right, up and down, the small bursts of colorful fire rattled the characters as smoke billowed in the aftermath. Crying out, the actors attempted to squirm out of the police officers’ restraining grip. What sounds like the details of a crime scene was in reality the riveting play that stormed Pace Academy’s theatre April 14-16, “You Can’t Take It with You.”

Within three short acts, director Sean Bryan transported the audience to the 1930s, placing them in the odd Sycamore residence. Alongside an exceptional tech, equipment, and effects team, Mr. Bryan redefined the standard of Pace plays. At the same time, some elements of “You Can’t Take It with You” missed the mark.

A newcomer to the Pace theater program, Mr. Bryan has now directed three productions for the Knights. Over the course of the year, audiences have been awe-struck by his brilliant use of setting, blocking and effects, most notably last fall’s “Legally Blonde.” However, there was some criticism swirling around minor details of the spring rendition of “You Can’t Take It with You.”

Mr. Bryan’s incorporation of radio show hosts was a both fascinating, yet challenging feat. He recalls “looking over vintage scripts of radio talk shows in the 1930s” with juniors Ellie Duncan and Emma Downey to accurately portray the time period and add a playful, interactive component for the crowd. While his intentions were pure, the overall role of the radio show hosts seemed a tad redundant, particularly at the beginning of the show. Furthermore, upperclassmen standouts such as junior Willie Lieberman, cast as Mrs. Kirby, paled in comparison to the handful of leading freshmen roles.

Nevertheless Willie, and others, such as sophomore Paige Demba, excelled, adding both sophistication and comedy to the show. Moreover, freshmen leads Grace Pottorff and Henry Todd were surprisingly refreshing. Grace’s genuine emotion and youthful aura paired well with her wealthy, banker’s son counterpart and easily resonated with younger audiences. Freshman Emily Schmitt had audiences doubled over in laughter with her on-point Russian impersonation and outlandish choreography.

Overall, the show prevailed with the comedic wit and the classic “Romeo and Juliet” theme of a forbidden pair. This “Romeo and Juliet,” however, had quite a twist. The premiere of varsity basketball team standout Wendell Carter, Jr. had audiences raving. A modern day Troy Bolton, Wendell stunned the crowd with his exceptional performance, proving he can thrive both on and off the court.

The mixed and matched cast accentuated the show’s quirky nature, spotlighting many new faces in Pace theater and sending off many old ones as the seniors prepare to say goodbye. Even with the minor criticisms, “You Can’t Take It with You” was well worth the ticket and definitely a night to remember.