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“You Can’t Take It With You” Spring Play Feature

Overview/ Review

Shasta’s spring play, “You Can’t Take it With You”, directed by Ken Hill, set a goal of making their closing night their best performance yet and it certainly went off with a BANG (in more ways than one). The play’s plot centers around a recently engaged couple, played by Rachel Rose and Christian Crozier, who find themselves caught between two very extreme families, the Sycamores and the Kirbys.  Along the course of the story, there are other kooky characters, such as a grand duchess, the Sycamore’s well-loved helpers, and the infamous Russian dance instructor (we’ll come back to him later). The plot is a bit hard to condense into a short summary without leaving out important character information so I’ll leave the synopsis up to you to look for another time.

Each character was portrayed with a balanced accuracy that neither went too far nor stopped too short. When dealing with eccentric characters, it is easy to enter into a realm where the behavior is overacted and so over the top that it becomes distracting and, in some cases, just annoying. This was not the case with this cast. Actors, Amanda Streetman, Jade Holling, Lyndsay Berry, Michael Swinehart, David Cutler, Michael Ferguson, Josh Rodrigues, Marquez Fudge, and Nick Brown, who make up the Sycamore household, excelled at the ability to be both outrageous and believable. I commend them for this, as it is not an easy task. On the other end of the spectrum, the Kirby family actors, Michael Osa and Elsie Ritchie, through a different sort of comedic approach, also portrayed the characters to upmost credibility, leaving the audience laughing with the ridged behavior.  Love interests, Rose and Crozier, also made believable performances and left the audience feeling the struggle of being part of such different families. Crozier’s character, Tony Kirby, was lovable from the get-go and I found myself rooting for him the whole way through.

The play never had a dull moment. Not one. Not only was the audience laughing the entire two or so hours of the production, they were still laughing after the curtain had closed and were discussing it during the intermission and on the way out to their cars. I, myself, hardly took a breath, finding myself at times to be the last person laughing out loud and was telling my friends about it, still, days after the show.

Shasta College certainly has a theater department bursting with star quality and I have a feeling after this show, they are only going to burn brighter.       

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Quotes from the Cast

One of my favorite characters was none other than Michael Ferguson, or, as his character is known as, Martin Vanderhof. Quiet spoken and good natured, he answered all my questions with a contagious grin and a twinge of humor. When asked what he thought of his fellow cast mates, he responded, “Well, the reason I was good… or if I was good,” He adds modestly, “it was thanks to them. Honestly. They were all great… they were all the best actors, honestly.” He went on to say he believed that closing night had been their best show. I believe it.

I also spoke with Christian Crozier and Amanda Streetman, both very familiar with the theater and with goals to transfer to Ashland’s Southern Oregon University, who played Tony Kirby and Mrs. Sycamore. When I started talking to them, I found out that they, both, had been in many Shasta College performances. If they weren’t on stage, they could usually be found hard at work in the tech crew as a stage manager or assistant stage manager.   When asked how they tackle memorizing their lines, Crozier replied, “I usually try to take it eleven pages at a time…until you’re not thinking anymore and what you’re saying is natural, like that’s the only thing you as that character would say in that situation.” Adding thoughtfully, he said, “I like to think of it as you’re sitting behind the eyes of your character.”

Though I didn’t have a chance to sit and talk with her, I wanted to give an honorable mention to Jade Holling, the actress playing the silly Sycamore sister, Essie, who sprained her ankle the night before closing night. She played a rather active character with a lot of excessive, purposely bad, dancing and it wasn’t until after the show when I saw her on crutches that I knew of her injury. Way to keep the show going, Jade!

Actress Lyndsay Berry, portraying the role of the housekeeper, Rheba, was all smiles and giggles as I asked her about how it was working with Marquez Fudge, who played her boyfriend, Donald. She informed me, “It was pretty intimidating, at first.” She is currently dating another cast member and she shares several onstage kisses with Fudge. She also added, “It was my first onstage kiss ever.”

Next, I spoke with Ed, otherwise known as Josh Rodrigues in real life. In the show, his character plays various recognizable tunes on a xylophone so naturally that I asked if it was at all difficult playing the instrument while onstage. Rodrigues chuckled and replied, “Nah, it’s not complicated. I thought it would be, though!” I then asked what he thought of his character’s wife, Essie’s, horrible dancing. He laughed again and said he found it hilarious and that Jade Holling, who dances quite well in real life, actually learned some ballet just so she could do it poorly for the show.

Michael Swinehart’s character, Mr. Sycamore, spent a large majority of his time on stage with a distinct absence of pants. When asked how he felt about this, he smiled real big and said, without hesitation, “Eh, I was pretty comfortable in my underwear. I didn’t mind.” His character, also, has a fascination with rockets, the other BANG that went off in the show. Swinehart said he has never had an interest in rockets and has no prior experience with them. Nothing had changed that feeling after the show either. 

Mr. Kirby was quite a character. Ridged, stiff and intolerant, he was played by Michael Osa. Pausing in his process of helping to take the set down, Osa met all my questions with great enthusiasm. I asked him how it was getting the humor across, clearly, with such a stilted persona to step into. His eyes widened as he replied, “This was my first serious role and, yeah, it was definitely a different approach.” Well, I think you nailed it, Mr. Osa! I also inquired what his reaction would be, if he, in real life, met a family as crazy as the Sycamores. He said it would be, “one of total shock and awe… I’d probably blend in and go along with it!” His favorite memory of the production was the funny moments he shared with everyone in the makeup room.

 

The Russian steals the show!

When asked who consistently made them laugh night after night, the cast answered, unanimously, Boris Kolenkhov, that infamous Russian dance instructor I mentioned earlier. Played by Nick Brown, he was absolutely HYSTERICAL. He sported an impressive and believable Russian accent and a lovely fake beard which he described as, “itchy and hard to take off,” but very fitting to Kolenkhov. In the show, there is a scene where he surprises Mr. Kirby with some spontaneous wrestling moves. During this, Brown jumps into the air and commits to a swan dive, bringing the front rows of the audience out of their seats to see him land on the thoroughly alarmed and defenseless Mr. Kirby. When asked about this, he laughed and assured me that he hadn’t hurt himself…too much. He thought that scene was “super fun” and described his cast mates as all “fantastic” and “awesome”. It’s a bit hard to explain without describing the play scene by scene, but the character of Kolenkhov never missed a beat, committed fully to whatever outrageous thing he set out to do and maintained that believable eccentric persona I mentioned earlier. He truly stole the show.      

 

A Tech Perspective

Set designer, David Fraser, as well as his helpers, out did themselves in regards to the set. It was elaborate and decorative, depicting the Sycamore’s living room perfectly. Cast members describe Fraser as “amazing” and “awesome”. And I must say, I completely agree.

You might remember Courtney Griffin as Lady Capulet in the fall production of Romeo and Juliet, but in this production she played the role of assistant director.  “I think tonight was our best night,” she says fondly as she watches the crew begin striking the set. Her role in the production, as she explained, was, “getting to work closely with actors…” Well Miss Courtney Griffin, whatever work you did, keep doing it because the actors did phenomenally!

Written by Marissa Anderson

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