Spring play explodes with hilarity, drama and heart

February 20, 2024

It’s the age-old story of love, family, and accidentally blowing up the house with illegal fireworks.

In “You Can’t Take It With You,” a 1937 Pulitzer Prize-winning comedic play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, the fireworks fly when two polar opposite families – one uptight, one anything but – are compelled to get along in the name of love.

Tensions rise when Tony Kirby, the open-minded son of a wealthy Wall Street businessman, brings his buttoned-up family to the home of the eccentric Sycamores to meet Alice Sycamore, his new fiancée and the most “normal” member of the wacky clan of snake collectors, revolutionaries, bad ballet dancers and skyrocket makers. The young couple knows it won’t be easy to bring their families together, but they could never have imagined just how explosive their meeting would be.

You Can't Take It With You cast photo
The cast of "You Can't Take It With You" includes, clockwise from top left: Cherise Wales as Alice, Devin Cordahl as Tony, Austin Hess-Jensen as Martin Vanderhof, Kyle Tierney as Ed, Ashlee Donley as Essie, Emmaleigh Marvel as Donna, Brodie Sandford as Mr. Kirby, Alesha Ouren as Mrs. Kirby, and Maezyn Haugen as Penny.

Adapted into an Academy Award-winning movie just two years after premiering on stage, “You Can’t Take It With You” marked the first time in history that a Broadway play and a film based on that play ran simultaneously. It became one of the most successful plays of modern times, proving so popular among educational theatre groups that it has been one of the 10 most produced plays every year since amateur rights became available in 1939.

“It’s such a fun show, with hilarious characters and all the emotional and comedic elements you need to create a dynamite stage experience,” says Stefanie Gerhardson, Director and M State Theatre Faculty. “And though it’s 85 years old now, it hasn’t lost its relevance. There’s been a lot of societal change since this play first appeared, unquestionably, but many of the concerns of that time are still concerns today – unemployment, unfavorable economics and politics, threats to the homeland. ‘You Can’t Take It With You’ stands out for its universal themes and ideas about family, love, and living life to the fullest.”

The M State Fine Arts department will be presenting “You Can’t Take It With You,” the department’s spring 2024 play, over the first two weekends of March at the Waage Theater on the college’s Fergus Falls campus. There will be evening shows at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, March 1-2 and 8-9, and a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. on March 10.

The cast includes Devin Cordahl and Cherise Wales as the young couple, Tony Kirby and Alice Sycamore. The senior Mr. Kirby is played by Brodie Sandford, while Alesha Ouren takes on the role of the stuffy patriarch’s long-suffering (and insufferable) wife. Austin Hess-Jensen is tax-evading snake enthusiast Martin, the grandfatherly head of the Sycamore household. His daughter, Alice’s artist mother, Penelope, is played by Maezyn Haugen, and Jackson Buckingham plays Alice’s father, Paul, a pyrotechnician who manufactures fireworks in the cellar. In the role of Essie, Alice’s ballerina sister, is Ashlee Donley, and Essie’s xylophone-loving husband, Ed, is played by Kyle Tierney.

Rounding out the rest of the personality-packed cast of characters are Alex Hensel, Emmaleigh Marvel, Teresa Widiger-Dembowski, Andrew Rasmusson, Danny Robb and Jacob Berg. Amelia Eide and Mariana Pevestorf are the props and running crew.

Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door for the general public, $5 for non-M State students, and free for M State students, faculty and staff and children under the age of 5. Tickets are available at the door shortly before each performance or in advance at the Fergus Falls Campus Store and online at mstate.universitytickets.com. The campus store may be reached at 218.736.1556.