Review: Highlands sparkles in ‘You Can't Take It With You'

A shower of sparks shot up from the stage, crackling merrily. Such was Highlands High School’s production of ‘You Can’t Take It With You,’ a sparkle of good cheer in a world often too overcome by seriousness.

Written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, the play follows the collision of the eccentric Sycamore family with the straight-laced Kirby family. Alice Sycamore hopes to marry Tony Kirby but fears that his family will not appreciate hers. When the Kirby family arrives at the Sycamores’ on the wrong night, chaos ensues. Only fireworks, the IRS and long-forgotten saxophone aspirations can return things to normalcy in this lighthearted comedy wherein anything can and, indeed, does happen.

The Sycamores were so natural onstage that it was as though they had invited the audience into their living room. The cast ambled around the set as though they lived there, and their constant reaction contributed to a wealth of nonverbal comedy. Essie’s (Ellie Conniff) tireless pirouettes, Mr. De Pinna’s (Ben Eglian) devotion to his fireworks, and Ed’s (Harrison Swayne) constant xylophone playing added to the silliness onstage.

Kay Vermeil as Alice Sycamore endeared herself with constant verve. She and Ben Justice (portraying Tony Kirby) anchored the show in realism with their solid presences. Sam Rosenstiel and Lindsey Gwen Franxman served as a hilarious contrast to the whimsical Sycamores as Mr. and Mrs. Kirby.

Olivia Ulmer (Penelope Sycamore) sauntered into every scene in a billow of silk and words like “lust.” Nick Mohr (Grandpa) portrayed Grandpa masterfully with both sagacity and peculiarity.

Harrison Swayne (Ed) was a constant pleasure onstage, from slithering across the floor to fetch a book to nearly climbing onto the lap of an IRS representative. His energy and sense of childishness made the character his own, and his antics onstage were riotous even when he did not have scripted lines.

From the moment Nick Jourdan (Boris Kolenkhov) strutted onstage in tight pants, a plum cummerbund and an impeccable Russian accent, he brought constant laughter. Paul Sycamore (Benjamin Finseth) with his Gollum-like love for his toy ships and Mr. De Pinna (Ben Eglian) with his willingness to wear a toga only contributed to the hilarity.

The set and props mirrored the slightly batty Sycamores, from the riot of clashing flowered prints to the crooked paintings on the walls, with magnificent attention to detail. All sound and lighting cues were precise and accented the performance in an unobtrusive way. The makeup crew demonstrated skillful use of prosthetics and effectively construed the age of each character.

Highlands High School’s performance of ‘You Can’t Take It With You’ was a reminder to embrace life’s little oddities and to live with warmth and merriment, illuminating seriousness with a spark of joy.

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