The best way to describe the set of You Can’t Take It With You is an old cartoon brought to life.
The new comedy premiering at Langham Court Theatre next month features a set unlike anything the theatre has presented before.
Walls have been painted the same colour as the auditorium; there are no straight right angles in the play, with doors and paintings off kilter; and if you look close enough, there are elephants climbing up the bannister.
All this is an effort to dissolve the imaginary fourth wall between the audience and the 19-person cast.
“It immediately makes the audience say this isn’t going to be a serious play,” said director Chris Moss. “As it goes from our normal to their bizarre world, it creates a vortex that sucks you in and everything becomes normal and you associate yourself with what they’re saying.”
You Can’t Take It With You, written by playwright George Kaufman, is about a man from a family of rich snobs who becomes engaged to a woman from a good-natured but decidedly eccentric family.
The play first premiered on Broadway in 1936 and according to Moss, was a way for audiences to escape their everyday lives.
“It was at a time in the depths of the Depression when the United States was looking for laughs,” Moss said, adding the plays makes fun of film and dance, government, FBI and the IRS.
Not only is the set over the top and outrageous, but the characters are as well.
Michael Gosselin is the producer and plays Donald, an Irish immigrant dating the family’s maid, Rheba.
“I like the over the top. I don’t get to play that often,” he said. “I’ve been describing it as a musical without the music. Zany is pretty much a good word for it.”
For Moss, the non-stop jokes and wacky set are ways to transport the audience from their world into a new one.
“I just want them (the audience) to forget about life for one or two hours and just live the life of this eccentric family. That’s what this play is about — you have to live in the moment,” he said.
You Can’t Take It With You runs from Oct. 1 to 17. For more information or tickets visit langhamtheatre.ca.
The play also kicks off Langham Court Theatre’s 87th season, which runs from the fall to June.