May 19, 2005
Spectator - The Geffen’s Great Escape
In the 1930s, with the Great Depression at home and Hitler saber-rattling overseas, George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, two sharp-witted Jewish lads, kept Broadway and the nation laughing.
Together, they wrote such comedic classics as "Once in a Lifetime," "The Man Who Came to Dinner," "I'd Rather Be Right" and "You Can't Take It With You."
The latter play, which debuted on Broadway in 1936 and won a Pulitzer Prize and as an Oscar-winning movie two years later, has now been revived by the Geffen Playhouse.
The revival marks the 100th anniversary of Hart's birth and, to keep the familial connection, is directed by his son, Christopher.
Cunningly constructed, the play relates the adventures and misadventures of the Sycamore Family of New York, whose guiding motto is, do whatever turns you on, however eccentric, and you'll have lots of fun, avoid ulcers and enjoy a happy ending.
This philosophy may not always work in this harsh world but it surely does on the stage.
The pace of this production is not quite as antic and frantic as we recall from the olden days, but there are enough laughs to get your money's worth.
Excelling in a somewhat uneven cast is veteran British actor Roy Dotrice as the family patriarch, who quit the rat race 35 years ago and has never looked back.
Also amusing are Conrad John Schuck as an irascible Wall Street tycoon, and Magda Harout, who doubles as an inebriated actress and an aristocratic Russian refugee who has fallen on hard times.
The Geffen's performances have been in exile on the Veterans Administration grounds while its Westwood playhouse has been undergoing a $17 million facelift.
Included in the renovations are a plusher main stage and audience seats and construction of the smaller Audrey Skirball-Kenis Theatre.
A grand reopening of the Westwood facility is set for Oct. 17. The inaugural drama on Nov. 4 will be Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," directed by Gilbert Cates and starring John Goodman as Big Daddy.
"You Can't Take It With You" concludes its run on May 22 at the VA's Brentwood Theatre. For information, call (310) 208-5454 or visit www.geffenplayhouse.com