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You Can’t Take It With You

By George S. Kaufman & Moss HartYou-Cant300x360

Directed by Devon De Mayo

At Northlight Theatre, Skokie

Who can’t laugh at a classic, timeless screwball comedy with heart?

You Can’t Take It With You won the Pulitzer Prize (rare for a comedy) in 1936 and the film won Best Picture (Oscar) in 1937. Northlight Theatre did the work justice as it delivered lovable, zany characters doing what loons do—make us laugh. This Equity cast was marvelous.


The Sycamore family of New York is the silliest and most dysfunctional, yet lovable family ever presented on stage. They are headed by Grandpa Vanderhof (John Judd), who walked away from his office job several years back and has never returned. He bides his time attending college commencements and collecting snakes. He has not paid his income taxes for 28 years, but he does not care. His daughter Penelope, or Penny (Penny Slusher), churns out play after play on a mistakenly-delivered typewriter, however, she never completes the works. At present, she is working on a play involving a nightclub singer who goes to a monastery and stays for seven years. Now she is trying to figure out how to get the girl out of the monastery. Penny’s husband, Paul (Brad Aemacost), and Mr. DePinna (Keth Neagle) manufacture fireworks in the cellar. DePinna is not a member of the family, but he delivered ice to the house seven years prior and has never left the premises. You put all of these characters in the three act play and you have the screwiest people on the American stage.

Grandpa loves his family and his friends and, as he says of their shenanigans, “Why not do what you want to do? After all, you can’t take it with you.” These people get into a lot of tomfoolery involving the Kirbys, the government, G-Men, with fireworks going off at all times and just plain wacky situations. The ensemble acting was terrific. From each of the 17 cast members comes zany comedy with a warm heart and total acceptance of each others foibles. This ensemble exuded warmth and toleration.

John Judd was wonderful as the crazy grandfather as he led the ensemble through their antics. Sometimes we need to go to theatre just to laugh—to escape—to reaffirm life’s wonder. With its message of “live in the now—and enjoy life by doing what makes you happy,” this play is a tribute to all eccentrics. You can’t Take It With You is so full of sweet nonsense and upbeat humor that it will make you forget your troubles for a couple of hours leaving you with a big grin. That—you can take with you!


Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout the You Can’t Take It With You page at

At Northlight Theatre, 9501 N. Skokie Blvd, Skokie, IL, call 847-673-6300,, tickets $25 0 $79, Tuesdays at 7:30 pm, Wednesdays at 1 & 7:30 pm, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2:30 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2:30 & 7 pm, Running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission, through December 13, 2105