THE AMERICAN FAMILY
BY PETER AMSTER, DIRECTOR
There are many reasons You Can’t Take It With You might be considered the Great American Comedy: its generosity of spirit; its deft depiction of a broad range of unique and amusing characters; its use of surprise, wit, incongruity, and inconsequential disaster to create moments of uproarious humor; its brilliant structure. But for me its greatness rests in the fact that it seems to be a different play, focused on different concerns, every time it appears on the American stage. It feels relevant in every age, and that makes it an enduring masterpiece.
Seven years ago, directing the show at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Florida, the nation was just as deeply divided as it is now, but there was not the sense of despair, of helplessness, of anger, mistrust, and depression, that seems to permeate the current American moment. What the play celebrated then as now was that money isn’t everything, that there are simple joys to be had if we just allow ourselves the permission to enjoy them, whether it’s dancing ballet, painting a picture, playing the xylophone, or just hanging out with family and friends. The American Dream is “Pursuit of Happiness,” not just the pursuit of money and power.
Now, in 2019, this joyous, funny, endearing play explodes on the stage again. And now, at least for me, the play has new concerns. It’s about the importance of family, and how generosity of spirit and inclusion is what makes us the best Americans we can be. The Vanderhof-Sycamore clan feels different: more diverse, more outspoken, more representative of today’s America. You Can’t Take It With You is not simply and narrowly about an extended family living on the Upper West Side of New York in the 1930s, but the American Family, living with open minds and hearts, in a home with a door that is constantly open to new people and new adventure. That’s who we are now: America’s free and sprawling extended family.
Tickets are available now for You Can't Take It With You on the IRT OneAmerica Mainstage, running now through May 19!
The IRT produces top-quality, professional theatre that engages, surprises, challenges and entertains people throughout their lifetimes, helping to build a vital and vibrant community.
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