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Love and family examined in 'You Can't Take It With You'

By: Don Chaddock, Telegraph Managing Editor
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Sutter Street Theatre’s latest offering, “You Can’t Take It With You,” is a quirky comedy of family and love. The ambitious production boasts one of the largest casts outside of the theater’s end-of-the-year “Holiday in the Hills” show. At times, 15 actors are on the stage, all ably managed by veteran stage director Allen Schmeltz. Penned in 1936 by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, the story is set during the Great Depression and centers on a young couple in love. One is from a well-heeled emotionally distant family of Wall Street investors while the other is the product of a loving, zany clan who craft fireworks in their cellar. A number of actors make their Sutter Street debut in this show including lead actress Ashley White as Alice Sycamore, Tisha Hill-Smith as Rheba, Mark Joyner as Mr. De Pinna and Monique McKisson as Mrs. Kirby. The show also features many familiar faces such as Christopher Celestin playing a federal agent. Celestin starred as the Queen in last year’s “Alice in Wonderland” as well as a pirate in “Treasure Island.” Hazel Johnson (Grand Duchess Olga Katrina), Matthew Udall (Mr. Kolenkhov), Shane Burrows (Tony Kirby), Michael Coleman (Ed Carmichael), Sara Noah (Penny Sycamore), Jessica Larrick (Essie Carmichael) and Ken Watkins (Paul Sycamore) are all returning actors to the intimate stage in Folsom. Jason Oler’s role as Donald, while brief, is well played. The same can be said for George Rose as a federal agent, Jon Beaver as Mr. Kirby and Tara Henry as Gay Wellington. By far there were two standouts — Stephen Kauffman as Grandpa Martin and White in her role as Alice. Kauffman, a former judge and district attorney, performs the role of the easy-going grandpa with ease. His acting experience shows as he makes the role appear effortless — meaning just the opposite. He’s won numerous Elly Awards in the past and I think there may be another one in his future with this part. White, a Sierra College student, is wonderful as the lovesick young lass who believes her family will mix with the Kirbys about as well as smoking pipes and gunpowder. Parker, my 11-year-old daughter, and Cian, my 13-year-old son, tapped White as their favorite. The set — a living room and dining area — are convincing and probably one of set-designer Mike Jimena’s best this season. Sutter Street Theatre has done it again with this show. Top-notch acting, great sets and an intimate setting make this one worth watching. * * * KNOW AND GO What: "You Can't Take It With You" When: 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday; 4 p.m. Sunday through June 5 Where: Sutter Street Theatre, 717 Sutter St., Folsom Cost: $23 general, $21 seniors and SARTA, $18 students, $15 Children 12 Information: (916) 353-1001, sutterstreettheatre.com Rating: 4 out of 5 stars