Key High production captures a family's zaniness


April 22, 1999|By Judy Reilly | Judy Reilly,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LIFE'S PRETTY SIMPLE if you'd just relax," advises Martin "Grandpa" Vanderhof in "You Can't Take it With You," a three-act play being performed at Francis Scott Key High School this weekend.

And Grandpa should know. Years earlier, he had walked away from a serious job to pursue the enjoyment of each moment in every day. He never looked back.

The relaxed attitude of Grandpa, played by Doug Wilder, sets the mood for the humorous play, written in 1938 by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman. Nothing bothers Grandpa -- not the Internal Revenue Service pressuring him for years' worth of unpaid taxes, not the chaos of the extended family that lives with him, not a trip to jail.

Every bit of life is an adventure, and things always work out. Each evening as the family gathers for a dinner of Corn Flakes, he gives thanks for the day.

The play's antics, twists and turns revolve around a cast of eccentric characters. The extended family -- Grandpa, his daughter and son-in-law, Penelope and Paul Sycamore (Becca Roach and Gene Korn) and their children, Alice (Kelley Rainey) and Essie (Jeena Rinehart)-- and a cook, Rheba (Katie Hansbrough), Rheba's boyfriend Donald (Mike Dieterich), Essie's husband Ed (Ryan Dixon), Mr. DePinna (Frank Fenn), an iceman, all reside in the unpretentious, cluttered home.

Anything goes in this house where Grandpa collects snakes in an aquarium tank, Paul Sycamore and Mr. DePinna make fireworks in the basement, Penelope writes plays simply because a typewriter once appeared on her doorstep, Essie takes ballet lessons from a Russian immigrant (Travis Yingling), while Ed accompanies her on an xylophone when he's not using the old printing press in the corner of the living room.

None has any talent, but they certainly have a good time writing, dancing and making explosives.

The glitch comes when Alice Sycamore falls in love with her boss' son, wealthy and handsome Tony Kirby (Jeremy Tippett), and he falls in love with her. Tony wants to marry Alice, but she isn't convinced that a union between her unusual tribe and his strait-laced, wealthy, Wall Street family is a good idea.

As the plot unfolds, more characters enter the household -- an actress (Lena Thamm), an IRS agent (Chris Palsgrove), the senior Kirbys (Tony Ebaugh and Liz Kurrle), a former grand duchess of Russia (Whitney Palmer) and government police (Matt Davis and Stuart Israel).

The student cast projects the warmth, humor and zaniness of the Sycamores, and does a convincing job of portraying a family that enjoys each spontaneous moment, appreciates each other and sees nothing unusual about its lifestyle.

The bits of wisdom peppered throughout the play will fall on welcome ears to overachieving adults in the audience as well as young high school students thinking of the future.

I've been reviewing plays for years, and it always amazes me what creativity, hard work, and a basic love for acting can produce, even at a small school like Key.

The stage set alone is worth the price of admission. With props collected over the years, and a loan of comfortable furniture from the parsonage at Linwood Brethren Church, the Sycamore living room is one we'd all like to call our own.

Suzanne Summit, a veteran math teacher at Key and the school's drama coach, said she is enjoying herself and the young actors she guides through the annual production. Summit is assisted by Faison Drury with Betty Roop as hair and makeup stylist.

Students Tom Marble and Heather Partner create the lighting, and Joyce Watkins and Robert Fisher are in charge of sound effects. Caitrin McCarron and Jennifer Kruszewski are the prompters.

The play is at 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday, at the Francis Scott Key High School auditorium. Tickets are $3 for students and senior citizens and $5 for others.

Information: 410-751-3320.

Judy Reilly's Northwest neighborhood column appears each Thursday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

Pub Date: 4/22/99

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