You Can't Take It With You For the title of their latest collaboration, a whirligig comedy set in a house full of fun-loving eccentrics, Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman decided on Grandpa's Other Snake. Having discarded Money in the Bank, They Loved Each Other and Foxy Grand­pa as nondescript and a bit too pastel, Snake had just the right touch of naugh­ty anarchy that appealed to the collaborators, but when the title was run by Mrs. Kaufman, George's formidable and most trusted adviser, she promptly squash­ed that idea. (She was still somewhat miffed that her husband's sexual escapades with Hollywood actress Mary Astor had become tabloid fodder only mont­hs before.) When Snake went in the tras­h, they wisely appropriated one of Grandpa's lines that summ­ed up his commonsense philosophy, and today we know this immortal American theater comedy as You Can't Take It With You. They couldn't have pick­ed a better title. In most comedies there's one crazy among the sane, but Broadway's royal couple of screwball comedy give us an entire brownstone full of them. In this most American of plays, winner of the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, it's the loonies who are normal — sweet, innocent, decent and upright. They have their act together; it's the outside world that's nuts. The household of Grandpa Vanderhof (James Black) overflows with goofballs and hangers-on who have come for dinner and stayed for years. This close-knit family knows how to live and how to have fun. The witty farce is so infectious, we want to move in, too. The Alley Theatre polishes this classic with its patented gloss right from the get-go with a deliciously scrabbled set by Hugh Landwehr. Everything but the kitchen sink is on view: Grandpa's snake tank, Ed's clunky printing press, the skull that dispenses candy, rubber masks, dartboard, Penny's typewriter and easel, paper streamers, potted cacti and that giant musk ox grinning down from the wall. The pineapple wallpaper is a touch of genius. The set's a comedy character all by itself — messy, lived-in, warm and inviting: home. Constructed like a Swiss watch, the play is a marvel of timing. Characters rush about, doors slam, fireworks erupt in the basement, gags are set up pages before they're needed and the confusion is comforting. The piece whirls along, dropping political comments and social satire like they were Ed's little printed sayings that he plants in Essie's candy boxes. The play never slows down, never runs out of breath, never stops being warm and fuzzy and terribly funny. If the plot is slight, nobody cares — will "normal" daughter Alice (Emily Neves), the only one in the family with a job, marry the boss's son, Tony (a dashing Jay Sullivan), after the snooty Kirbys (Paul Hope and Anne Quackenbush with noses permanently poised in the air) meet her extended family? It's the characters who drive this play and make it live and laugh. This is a play for actors, and Hart and Kaufman supply a fabulous who's who of nonconformists for the Alley regulars to sink their teeth into and gobble up. With electrified hair curled like Elsa Lanchester's in Bride of Frankenstein and overwhelmed in a baggy stuffed suit, John Tyson stops the show as Russian emigré Kolenkhov, Essie's ballet teacher who's as mad as Rasputin, only a whole lot sweeter. The large company, on the same wavelength thanks to director Sanford Robbins with his whiplash pacing, has a high-ho time. We do, too. This rollicking comedy, beautifully mounted by the Alley, is America at her best. Free and liberated, the Vanderhof world is where we'd all like to reside. You Can't Take It With You hasn't dated one comma since 1936. Through October 20. 615 Texas, 713-220-5700. — DLG

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