You Can't Take It With You
George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart
Summer, 2011

You Can't Take It with You is a comedic play in three acts by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. The original production of the play opened at the Booth Theater on December 14, 1936, and played for 837 performances. The play won the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

At first the Sycamores seem mad, but it is not long before you realize that if they are mad, then the rest of the world is madder. In contrast to these delightful people are the unhappy Kirbys. Tony, the attractive young son of the Kirbys, falls in love with Alice Sycamore and brings his parents to dine at the Sycamore house on the wrong evening. The shock sustained by Mr. and Mrs. Kirby, who are invited to eat cheap food, shows Alice that marriage with Tony is out of the question. The Sycamores find it hard to understand Alice's view. Tony knows the Sycamores live the right way with love and care for each other, while his own family is the one that's crazy. In the end, Mr. Kirby is converted to the happy madness of the Sycamores after he happens in during a visit by the ex-Grand Duchess of Russia, Olga Katrina, who is currently earning her living as a waitress.

Rheba………………………………….. Arbella Al-Bazi
Paul Sycamore………………………… Clark Bender
Mr. Kirby……………………………….. Brad Cantwell
Mrs. Kirby & Duchess………………… Lisa Cantwell
Grandpa…………………… ………….. Bill Chamberlain
Penny Sycamore ...…………………… Ellen Cribbs
Gay Wellington……………………….. Ann Dernbach
Kolenkhov….....……………………... Keith Harkleroad
Mr. De Pinna…………………………. Paul Hearnon
Mr. Henderson/A G-Man……………. Mark Hernandez
Alice.……………………………………. Katie Lanigan
Essie Carmichael…………………….. Jill Matel
Donald…………………………….. …... Rand Ringgenberg
Ed Carmichael…………………………. Brian Rogers
The Man…………….………………….. Herschel Slosberg
Tony Kirby………………………………… Patryk Szwankowski
A G-man………………………………….. Twila York

Artistic Staff Profiles______________

Anna Antaramian (Director) has been a member of NEIU’s theatre family for the past twenty-one years. She has been the Managing /Artistic Director of the Stage Center Theatre, Thymely Theatre, the Summer Theatre and is a past president of the Illinois Theatre Association. She holds an M.F.A. from New York University and has worked in various theatrical venues across the country, the most recent being the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre. Special thanks to H-S-A-N-T-J-D and, as always, Mr. McGuire.

Jessica Kuehnau (Set Designer) is pleased to be designing her fourth season for the Stage Center Theatre. Since completing her M.F.A. in Scenic and Costume Design at Northwestern University, Ms. Kuehnau has been designing sets and costumes for such notable theatres as Pegasus Players, Circle Theatre, Griffin, Lifeline Theatre, MPAACT, Adventure Stage Chicago, Metropolis Performing Arts Center and Backstage Theatre. She is also the resident set designer at North Park University and a founding ensemble member of Adventure Stage Center Chicago.

Laura Kollar (Costume Designer) hails from Atlanta, GA, but has been living and working in the Chicago area since 2000. This is Laura’s first production at Northeastern, and she is excited to be working with such a great cast and crew. Laura is an Ensemble Member with Adventure Stage Chicago, where she has designed many productions; most recently, she designed And A Child Shall Lead. Laura has also designed shows with Live Wire, Theater Wit, BackStage Theatre Co., National Pastime, Theatre Mir, Collaboraction, Serendipity Theatre, North Park University, Actors Theatre Co. and Pegasus Players, among others. Thanks to Jessica for all her tremendous help, to Matt for being her favorite, and to Darlene for letting Mama get back to work.

John Rodriguez (Lighting Designer) joined the theatre faculty at NEIU eight years ago and has been teaching courses in technical theatre as well as working as a designer on Stage Center Theatre productions. Most recent designs include Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Around the World in 80 Days, Emma’s Child, Bleacher Bums as well as Summer Theatre’s productions of My Sister Eileen and Hay Fever.

Alex Useted (Technical Director) is glad to be back for his third summer with The Stage Center Theatre. Alex is a freelance technical director and scenic carpenter, and most recently completed technical direction of The Original Grease with American Theater Company. He also works with Crosstown Scenic, where he has contributed to projects for companies throughout the Chicago area, including Drury Lane Oakbrook, The Second City, Writers’ Theatre, and many others.

Annie Dernbach (Stage Manager) See actress bio.

Monica Clark (Assistant Stage Manager) is a second-time Assistant Stage Manager for Summer Theatre. She also was the Business Manager for Northeastern Illinois University Children’s Theatre production of The Love for Three Oranges (Spring 2011) and The Wolf and Its Shadows (Fall 2010). Monica would like to thank Anna, Lisa, and Caitlin for their guidance during this production. She would also like to thank her family and friends for their unwavering support!

The play takes place in the 1930’s, New York City, in the
Vanderhof home just around the corner from Columbia University
Act I
Sc. 1: A Wednesday evening
Sc. 2: A.M. Thursday morning
Act 2
Sc. 1: A week later
Sc. 2: The next day

A Message To Take With You

When Kaufman and Hart wrote You Can’t Take It With You, they might easily have given it a title of one of Shakespeare’s comedies: All’s Well That Ends Well. In fact, most comedies could copy that title of the Bard’s. But Kaufman and Hart wanted to emphasize something important. You Can’t Take It With You quite simply is a didactic play. Its message is so simple that it seems, 70-something years later, to not even have a message, for we hear the wisdom of the play every day on American television’s sitcoms in any variety of forms: money doesn’t buy happiness; family and friends are more important than money; people should do what makes them happy, not necessarily what makes them rich; money isn’t everything.

A Marxist cultural critic might suggest that these television sitcoms are perpetrated on the masses to indoctrinate them to stay in their poor and middleclass social and economic places. Complacency aids the capitalist machine. Such comedies have a dulling and lulling effect on ambition. In You Can’t Take It With You, however, the message itself, as presented in the lay, is declared to be communist propaganda.

People in the U.S. still often get negatively worked up when some program or attitude is labeled communist or socialist. And in 1936, fear of communism was a festering demon in the public imagination so scary that only a war effort a few years later could sidestep it. European Nazism and Japanese imperialism were more dangerous and fearsome than communism for the time being. After the war, however, in the late 1940s and 1950s, that festering demon took American justice by the throat and darn near killed it.

The message that Kaufman and Hart present in You Can’t Take It With You is more poignant in the context of its time. Opening on December 14, 1936, and closing after more than 800 performances on December 3, 1938, the show was a huge success. At its closing on Broadway, it had already become a film destined to win an Academy Award for Outstanding Production. But Pre-WWII America was in a sorry economic condition, still not quite out of the Great Depression, and You Can’t Take It With You as a play and film spoke to the public. And what did it say?

The play poses the Vanderhof household against the staid Kirby family. The Kirbys are well-to-do, and it is let out that Mr. Kirby, a Wall Street baron, sometimes pays as much as $10,000 for an orchid bulb—this in a time when the average household income was roughly $1,700. But the play doesn’t treat this as an injustice; nor does the play seek a redistribution of wealth. The obvious wisdom of the play is that it is perfectly fine to be a Wall Street baron so long as the activity makes you happy. If you have ulcers from work, get another job, or, better, just stop working altogether. Such an attitude is at odds with communism and capitalism both. The bearer of wisdom in the play is Grandpa. He utters the words of the title.

        Mr. Kirby: Why do I keep on—why, that’s my business. A man can’t give up his business.

        Grandpa: Why not? You’ve got all the money you need. You can’t take it with you.

        Mr. Kirby: That’s a very easy thing to say, Mr.Vanderhof. But I have spent my entire life building up my business.

        Grandpa: And what’s it got you?

The play unfolds the answer: indigestion and discomfort and the loss of pleasure.

Grandpa, who used to go to business, gave up those things Mr. Kirby is reluctant to. But Grandpa’s gain is the human surroundings furnished by his family. And the family, as used in the Vanderhof house, is defined more by proximity than blood. Strangers join the household and become part of it with an ease that is the very opposite of the Kirby’s closed social class. And that ease reflects the necessities of the Great Depression, during which people fed strangers from their back doors and others worked in soup kitchens. The virtue of selfishness was not yet in ascendance as it is today; neighborliness was a better virtue. Commonweal was real.

Grandpa’s human surroundings provide joy and comfort. Nothing is measured by any scale than that a person is doing what he or she wants to do: writing melodrama, printing words gleaned from Trotsky, making candy, performing ballet moves, all the while the crazy world outside has not a clue how to be happy. But by play’s end, all’s well.

Patrick McGuire
English Dept., University of Wisconsin-Parkside

Arbella Al-Bazi (Rheba) is excited to be appearing in another Stage Center Theatre production. It has been such a great experience working with a very talented group of actors in this amazing show. Arbella would like to thank her Mom, Dad, sisters and her amazing friends for their love and support. As Grandpa says, “You can’t take it with you,” so follow your dreams and do what makes you happy, the rest will come. Arbella will be graduating in the spring with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication, Media and Theatre.

Clark Bender (Paul Sycamore) is enjoying another whirlwind of Stage Center Summer shows: only weeks ago he was clowning around as Touchstone in As You Like It. Other Stage Center roles include Sandy in Hay Fever, Mr. Sherwood in My Sister Eileen and Stryver in A Tale of Two Cities. He thanks Anna for wonderful roles and sure-handed guidance; the great cast and crew for their creativity and dedication; friends and family for encouragement and support; and most of all his beloved wife Kim for putting up with his extended adolescence.

Brad Cantwell (Mr. Kirby) recently appeared at the Stage Center Theatre as Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days, Gordon in Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Richard in Hay Fever, Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities, various roles in Vaudeville America, Richard in Living Out, Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Amenuensis/Geronte in The Illusion and as Teddy in How He Lied To Her Husband. Brad thanks this talented cast and crew, especially Ms. Antaramian. Thanks to Lisa and McCoy for filling my life with love, excitement and adventure.

Lisa Cantwell (Mrs. Kirby & Duchess) Lisa is deliriously happy to be working with this delightfully wacky cast and crew. She is currently a theatre instructor here at NEIU where she received her master's degree in Communication, Media and Theatre. Recent acting credits include Audrey in As You Like It, Myra in Hay Fever, Mrs. Sowerberry in Oliver, Rita in Lucky Stiff, Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Miss Framer in Lettice and Lovage, and Miss Lynch in Grease. She thanks her lucky stars each day for Anna, her guiding light. Much gratitude to sweet Jessica, to John, my Tony, and to darling Laura. And to my boys, Monkey and B... I can take you with me.

Bill Chamberlain (Grandpa) is thrilled to be making his debut with the Stage Center Theatre.Most recently Bill played the Wizard and Uncle Henry in The Wizard of Oz at the Provision Theatre. Last fall, he played Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird with Chase Park Theater. He has performed several roles with Light Opera Works, including Colonel Pickering in My Fair Lady, sung with Lyric Opera of Chicago (where he was a member of the Lyric Opera Center) and the Santa Fe Opera, among others. This fall, he will be singing the role of Roscoe in Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s production of Follies.

Ellen Cribbs (Penny Sycamore) is so excited to continue her summer with the Stage Center Theatre after just performing the role of Rosalind in As You Like It. Next up, Ellen is performing the role of Susy in Wait Until Dark at Citadel Theatre, and reprising her role from last year in Commedia Beauregard's production of A Klingon Christmas Carol. Ellen would like to thank Anna and everyone involved with the Stage Center this summer for a fantastic and unforgettable couple of months. Special thank you to Charles for all his support.

Ann Dernbach (Gay Wellington ) Ann is very excited to be appearing onstage for the second time, and stage managing for the third at Stage Center Theatre. She appeared earlier this summer as Phebe in As You Like It, and stage managed Lucky Stiff and Vaudeville America! She graduated from Fordham University, and recently completed the Teacher Certification Program at NEIU. Ann would like to thank Anna for a summer of amazing opportunities, her friends and family for their support, the cast and crew for being thoroughly delightful, and Lisa for the rides, encouragement, and for bringing her here in the first place.

Keith Harkleroad (Kolenkhov) is in graduate school studying linguistics at NEIU. He has recently been bitten by the acting bug and is having a blast working with such talented people. He was last seen in Stage Center Theatre’s As You Like It as Oliver, Around the World in 80 Days last fall and played the jester Truffaldino in this spring’s Children’s Theatre Workshop production of The Love For Three Oranges.

Paul Hearmon (Mr. De Pinna) is thrilled to be given the chance to appear in his first production for eight years! Please forgive him if his accent occasionally slips. Previous productions include Feste in Twelfth Night, an Antipholus and a Dromio in Comedy of Errors and Angus in Neville’s Island.

Mark Hernandez (Mr. Henderson/G man) is excited to be joining the cast of You Can’t Take It With You! This is his first time performing as an actor in a play. He previously worked behind the scenes on William Shakespeare’s Macbeth at Moraine Valley Community College. Mark is a senior here at Northeastern Illinois University; he is set to graduate in December with a Degree in Communication, Media, and Theater with a minor in Political Science.

Katie Lanigan (Alice) is excited to be joining such an amazing production. She has recently graduated from Columbia College with a degree in Arts Entrepreneurship. In addition to her theater performances she is also a competitive Latin and Ballroom dancer. A BIG recognition to God, family and a new niece, Eva Mc’Dowell. A special thanks to her supportive sister who has always encouraged her to follow her heart!

Jill Matel (Essie Carmichael) is excited to be returning to the NEIU summer stage for the 4th time. A native of Milwaukee, she studied acting and dance at Barat College in Lake Forest and performs in and around Milwaukee and the Chicagoland area with various groups. Favorite roles include Nancy in Oliver, Roxy in Chicago, and Holly in Wedding Singer. Thank you to Anna and the cast and crew for all their hard work.

Rand Ringgenberg (Donald) has been seen recently at the Stage Center Theatre in As you Like It, Emma’s Child and Dead Man’s Cell Phone. Rand is a Communication, Media, and Theatre major here at NEIU and will be graduating in December. He is looking forward to his final semester this fall when he takes a break from acting and assumes the role of playwright, as two of his one act plays, O Come All Ye Faithful and The Gedanken Experiment, will be presented in the Studio Theatre in October.

Brian Rogers (Ed Carmichael) is thrilled to be appearing in his second show at the Stage Center Theatre. He appeared in the roles of Charles, William and Jaques in As You Like It. He is currently an English major here at Northeastern Illinois University. Brian would like to express his warmest gratitude to Anna Antaramian, who is simply the greatest! Brian wishes only the best for the cast and crew in their future endeavors. Lastly, Brian would like to exclaim his love and thanks to his family and friends, especially to his wonderful girlfriend for her help and support.

Herschel Slosberg (The Man) comes to the theatre from the world of television and news production, where he was an Emmy nominated Associate Producer for CNN’s highly acclaimed documentary crew. A former member of the US Olympic diving team, Herschel first appeared last summer at the Stage Center Theatre in My Sister Eileen. He’s returned to Chicago from LA just last month and is already back into the “swing of things”.

Patryk Szwankowski (Tony Kirby) is very excited to be performing in You Can't Take It With You and to be working alongside some really talented people. After finishing his run as Silvius in As You Like It, he is excited to be working with some of the same actors. Going into his second year at NEIU, he has performed in two Children's Theatre Workshop plays (The Wolf and Its Shadow, The Love for Three Oranges) and is majoring in Communications, Media, and Theatre, Patryk hopes to one day be a screenwriter or a playwright. Thanks to all my wonderful friends and family for their support! LWI.

Twila York (G man) is happy to be back on the stage having taken an extended break since high school. She is a Communication major and will be graduating May 2012 from NEIU. Twila would also like to extend a special thank you to her fiancé Devin who has been so amazing this summer dealing with Twila's busy work and school schedule.





Special thanks to the Department of Communication, Media, and Theatre Faculty and Staff, Katrina Bell-Jordan, Lisa Cantwell, Keith Harkleroad, Brian Rogers, Shayne Coffer and the Music Department .

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