You can take the laughter with you

There are pyrotechnics in the basement and there’s a fiery Russian in the living room. This isn’t some Cold War-era nightmare — it’s the premise of “You Can’t Take It With You,” the latest production by the UVM Theatre Department. The play is a comedy about quirkiness taken to the extreme. Following their bliss to the point of absurdity, the Sycamore family is quite the cast of characters. From Penny, who writes plays with no direction, to her daughter Essie whose passion  for dancing is without talent, the members of the family seem flighty and silly at first, but they begin to seem less foolish as the play progresses.When Penny and Paul’s daughter Alice agrees to marry Tony Kirby, the son of a Wall Street executive, things get especially hectic.The onstage presence of characters, who don’t share the Sycamores’ unique zest for life, highlights the strangeness of the Sycamore lifestyle.When the Kirbys come for dinner, chaos ensues. It culminates in the end of the second act when Paul Sycamore’s pyrotechnics are accidentally set off, and sparks fly.The cast of “You Can’t Take It With You” infuses liveliness into the characters in a play that relies so much on personality. Sophomore Alex Koch portrays Paul Sycamore as a loving father figure, who makes the affection of the family believable without surrendering the humor that he makes fireworks in his house. Koch completes the character with a guffaw that elicited many laughs from the audience. Paul’s daughter, Alice, played by senior Kathy Brian, oscillates convincingly between loving the family and being fed up with it. She is the only family member who is unsure about how to feel about their eccentricity. In contrast to the boisterousness of most of the characters, sophomore Stephen Kent’s dry humor makes Mr. Kirby especially hilarious as he is subjected to the whims of the Sycamore household.Ultimately, “You Can’t Take It With You” is a play with an ensemble cast, and this is pulled off well, with many strong performances and no one actor outshining another in a way that hurts the family dynamic.Once the play makes the Sycamores appear sufficiently lovable, even though they lead undeniably ridiculous lives, it turns things around and shows that living any other way is actually ridiculous.In the end, the play points out that the characters are simply doing what makes them happy. Furthermore, it depicts how rarely most people do things for that reason.Mixing flamboyant characters that provide both physical and verbal humor with a final act that ends the play on a sentimental note, “You Can’t Take It With You” is a comedy that not only makes you laugh, but also makes you think.