Alice Sycamore (played by Marissa Macturk) falls in love with her boss’ son, Tony (P.J. Tighe) in ‘You Can’t Take It With You.’ Also pictured is Alice’s mother, Penny (Merridy Knips) and grandpa (Norm Argulski).
If you think your family is crazy, then you haven’t met the Sycamores.
With a father who manufactures fireworks in the basement, a sister who fancies herself a ballerina (though she is a terrible dancer), and a snake-raising, tax-evading grandfather, no one has a more eccentric family than Alice Sycamore.
So when Alice is faced with the task of introducing her seemingly normal fiancé and his uptight parents to her zany household, it becomes a recipe for madness — and uproarious laughter.
Such is the premise for “You Can’t Take It With You,” Hamburg Theatre Under the Stars’ chosen comedy for its fourth summer production in Hamburg’s Memorial Park.
“It is a lot of fun, this show,” said Marc Ruffino, who is directing the play. “It is a family who has this philosophy that individualism should be embraced, and that whatever you love to do, you should do it and not worry about conforming.”
Ruffino, who also teaches English and oversees the Drama Club at Hamburg High School, said that the audience will easily find themselves enraptured with the characters, which he called “totally lovable.”
“It’s a comedy for everyone. There are snappy one-liners, sight gags and actually physical comedy, and the costumes are absolutely outrageous,” he said.
The majority of the costumes, which include authentic 1930s suits and frocks, are on loan from the Batavia Players.
The madcap comedy by legendary playwrights George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart premiered in 1936, towards the end of the Great Depression.
“When the show was written and produced initially it was still during the Depression, and there was the threat of the impending war in Europe. It was an anxious time. A lot of screwball comedies were becoming more prevalent because America needed a laugh,” said Ruffino. “I think those conditions — as far as economics and a violent war — would resonate with audiences today.”
Tony Baksa, HTUTS founder and producer, agreed. “The play is very timely. Though its from the ‘30s, it couldn’t be more relevant.”
Photo courtesy of Dan Shick.
The cast of the show is a true example of art imitating life. Just as the Sycamore household includes people of all walks of life, this year’s cast (which at 19 members is the biggest yet) contains men and women of all backgrounds, ages and hometowns.
Buffalo veteran actor Norm Argulski said that the cast has already developed a familial bond that extends beyond the stage. At 75 years old, Argulski, who plays the grandfather in the play, said he is learning as much from the younger actors as they are of him.
“We are constantly thinking of one another,” he said in regards to how the actors are willing to help each other out.
Argulski has won two awards from the Theater Association of New York State: first for playing Sherlock Holmes and later for his portrayal of Morrie Schwartz “Tuesdays with Morrie.” A Hamburg native, Argulski now resides in Batavia and makes the drive to practice nearly daily.
“It is absolutely worth that hour and a half commute,” he said.
Like Argulski, actor Jerry Butler does not let his age stand in the way of delivering a funny, moving performance.
“At 80-years-old, he is full of energy and full of comic flair,” said Baksa of Butler, who plays Mr. De Pinna in the show. A resident of Medina, Butler also has a distance to travel to make rehearsal. Other actors include residents of Buffalo and Springville.
“This year the cast seems to be from everywhere,” said Baksa, who could not be happier that word of HTUTS is reaching far beyond the Southtowns. “In the four years, we have become a bit of a tradition. It has made Hamburg a go-to for Labor Day weekend.”
In addition to the performances, theatergoers will enjoy a split club and a theme basket raffle. Vendors, such as Main Street Ice Cream and other local business will sell wares at Memorial Park. HTUTS will also be selling “HTUTS hot dogs” at the shows.
“This is not just a play, this is an event for Hamburg,” Baksa said.
“You Can’t Take It With You” will be performed at Hamburg’s Memorial Park on Thursday, Aug. 30; Friday, Aug. 31 and Saturday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m., as well as Sunday, Sept. 2 at 3 p.m.
For more information, search for “HTUTS” on Facebook.