From downright funny to downright serious

Southern Oregon University's Department of Performing Arts puts the "fun" back in dysfunctional with its production of George S. Kaufman's and Moss Hart's "You Can't Take It With You."

Family chaos is sometimes a good thing, and Kaufman's and Hart's Pulitzer Prize-winning play brings two families of opposite lifestyles together — with some explosive results.

Performances are set for 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, May 19-21 and 26-28, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 28 and 29, at SOU's Center Stage Theatre.

SOU professor David McCandless directs.

"The play was produced in 1936," says McCandless in a press release. "The country was still coping with the Depression, which serves as a sociological backdrop for the play. 'You Can't Take It With You' sets up a conflict between two sets of values: the pursuit of worldly success versus the pursuit of self-fulfillment."

The Sycamore family enjoys its eccentricities and doesn't understand why their daughter, Alice, is concerned they might scare off her boyfriend, Tony. When the couple's families meet over dinner, delightful answers emerge to the age-old question of what life is all about.

"To prepare for this play, I watched several film comedies from the 1930s. Every one of them features an upper-class character getting schooled in the meaning of life by a lower-class character," says McCandless.

Another important theme in the play, says McCandless, is the story of thwarted lovers.

"Perhaps it's the Shakespearean in me, but I see the young man and woman in this play as classic, star-crossed lovers," he says. "We need to really believe in them and root for them."

McCandless says it's also a treat to explore the style and sensibility of the '30s and a challenge for the cast to relate to people of a very different generation.

McCandless holds a doctorate from Stanford University's scholar-director program. He has taught drama and directed plays at Carleton College in Minnesota and the University of California at Berkeley.

Elsbeth Poe plays Alice, and Nik Horaites plays Tony Kirby in the SOU production. Mallory Wedding plays Penelope Sycamore, and Joe Wegner plays Martin Vanderhof. The cast also includes Ashleigh Bragg, Cory Davison, Gavin Douglas, Jake Feller, Scott Key, Heath Koerschgen, Tyler Kubat, Tori Miller, Joe Murley, Avery Proctor, Cat Seaton, Rachel Seeley, Josh Simpson, Cyle Swanstrom and Andrew Yabroff.

The production team is made up of theater students: Daniel Haskett designed the set; Teresa LaScala designed costumes; Kevin Young designed lights; and Cymry Reardon is the stage manager.

SOU professor Chris Sackett is the sound designer.

The Theatre Arts Building is on South Mountain Avenue on the SOU campus, next to the Music Recital Hall.

Tickets cost $21, $18 for seniors and $6 for students. Call 541-552-6348.

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