Jaimie Page plays Essie Carmichael, who has devoted her life to ballet, but can’t dance, while Fred Stocking is the eccentric “Grandpa” Martin Vanderhof — patriarch of the Sycamore family clan — in George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s farce “You Can’t Take It With You,” playing this weekend at The Grand in Ellsworth. NICK NAVARRE PHOTO

Grand fun

Reviewed by Nan Lincoln

Special to The Ellsworth American

ELLSWORTH — Amidst all the high school drama and jazz fest hoopla, theater lovers might not be aware that there has been some fun theatrical fare going on recently at The Grand.

And, lucky for you, the theater will perform Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s screwball comedy “You Can’t Take It With You” one final weekend March 13-15.

Here’s why you should go: First of all, it is simply a wonderful play, about a quirky New York extended family whose comparatively level-headed youngest daughter gets engaged to a buttoned-up young businessman. The meeting of the two families — one of which trades stocks and bonds on Wall Street while the other makes candy in the kitchen and fireworks in the basement — is, well, explosive.

Then, there are some fine actors in the cast, several of whom performed this play in the terrific Lamoine Community Arts production a few years ago, and including at least one former veteran of the aforementioned high school drama and jazz festivals.

Also, Brent Hutchins, who directed that LCA production, has once again put together a fast-paced show and a set to die for. In fact, I’ll bet there were plenty of people in the audience who would have loved to move into that eccentric but cozy household — well, maybe after the snakes were removed.

But they’d want to keep the oddball residents — the family and friends of the Vanderhof clan — as tenants.

Let’s start with Grandpa, the family’s weird but often wise patriarch, played perfectly, for the second time, by Fred Stocking, who never resorts to scenery chewing for the laughs he delivers from the witty script, but at times manages to just use his expressive eyes to let us in on the joke.

As his rather bohemian daughter Penny, Tracy Green is more effusive, but delightfully so, making us share her multiple enthusiasms for art, psychology, playwriting — which she started when a typewriter was mistakenly delivered to the house — and her family.

Her husband, Paul, the mild-mannered fireworks designer played by David Schick, is fine, but needs to pump up the volume a bit.

Penny’s eldest daughter Essie, the candy maker of the family and an aspiring ballerina, played by Jaime Paige, is great fun as she trips and twirls about the stage. One note here, Essie’s character would be funnier still if she actually tried to dance more like an adult than a preschooler. Unless Paige is a professional dancer, the result is still going to be silly without her trying so hard for the laughs.

Essie’s husband, a socialist pamphleteer, is nicely underplayed by William Foster, who kept reminding me of SNL alum Kevin Nealon with his constantly bewildered manner.

As Penny’s engaged younger daughter Alice, Abigail Green, needs to take a page out of her stage mother’s book and vary the delivery of her lines more. She tends to be one-note, using volume rather than inflection to express her moods, thus saying lines like “I love him so much” and “I ordered a salad” with the same level of emotion. While this deadpan delivery works in some places, it needs livening up in others.

Also, she is a lovely young woman and it’s a mystery why they have done virtually nothing with her straight brown hair, makeup or costuming (except for one stunning evening gown) to make her look like a fashionable young woman of the 1930s.

Garrett Moyer, once a prominent performer on the Ellsworth High School stage, has only improved his acting skills since graduating and is totally convincing as Alice’s fiancé Tony Kirby. A rebellious son, he is thrilled with his fiancé’s eccentric household.

It’s not just these major roles that make this play such a hoot but the cornucopia of kooks, cops and other characters who come and go in this crazy household.

Topping this list is Kathy Stanley as Rheba the maid, Daniel Clement as her boyfriend, Donald; Ben Carter as the adorable Mr. De Pinna, Paul’s assistant; Anthony Anderson as Essie’s imperious Russian dance instructor, Svetlana Malinina as the even more imperious refugee Russian royal (great costuming here); John Hamer and Carol Mason as the scandalized Mr. and Mrs. Kirby and Robin Veysey as the drunken actress.

Special kudos to the sound techs Peter Miller and Rusty Patten for some truly impressive sizzles, booms and bangs.

Perhaps as the play’s title claims, you can’t take it with you, but you really should take yourself to one of the show’s final three performances at 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, March 13-14, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 15.

Tickets cost $20 per adult and $12 for students (15 and under). For tickets and information, call 667-9500 or go to grandonline.org.

Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.

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