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`YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU’ IS GREAT FINISH FOR BYU CAREER

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Jean Jenkins couldn't have chosen a better play than "You Can't Take It With You" to end her directing career at Brigham Young University with a bang.

Jenkins - who is retiring from directorial duties at BYU's theatre and film department - presents this venerable Depression-era play with all the charm, wit and simplicity it was originally drafted in 1936 to convey. The qualities of the piece also earned writers Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman a Pulitzer.And despite a few technical gaffes and a plodding first act (it was a preview performance, after all), BYU's rendering of the play is very enjoyable as the audience is treated to all the warmth, chaos and earthiness of the not-so-nuclear Sycamore family.

Smart set design transports patrons to the late '30s New York home of patriarch Martin Vanderhof, ably acted by Paul DeWitt, as Americana seeps out of the set. Kudos to scenic designer Rory Scanlon for the nice, homey touches, including the quilt anyone's grandma could have made.

The live Burmese python - thanks to Provo's Bird Palace - was also effective, as Grandpa Vanderhof's hobby probably scared the first few rows of the audience to death.

One criticism of the performance, though, should be directed to whoever is responsible for sound in the theater.

The lines of charming daughter Alice (Shawnda L. Ludlow) could barely be heard at times, as a cacophony of sounds including typewriters, xylophones, printing presses and fireworks production overpowered the voices.

Perhaps Ludlow just needed to speak up.

Comedic timing and delivery also suffered a little bit, as the performers had the challenge of not knowing exactly when people would laugh. Various lines following the jokes were lost in audience reaction.

Yet overall, the actors present a wonderful story - social mores thrown out the window and all - complete with life's bitter choices and consequences, Corn Flakes and the "Infernal" Revenue Service.

A highlight of the production is the portrayal of mother Penelope "Penny" Sycamore by Megan Roth Scoville. A BYU alumnae whose credits include "Merry Wives of Windsor" and "Prodigals," Scoville is outstanding in representing the harried, anxious and overachieving Mother Goose, overseeing and protecting her gaggle.

Along with DeWitt, Ludlow and Scoville, other cast members include Meredith Higbee, Erin Payne, David Waddell, Jonathan Gustavson, Ryan Peterson, Jack R. Renouf Jr., Brian Gibson, Cray Lyman and Malcolm Phipps. Also performing are Tiffany Johnson, Mark Bennion, Dixie R. Smith, Erin McGuire, Joey Payne, Lanny Sorenson and David Litster.

Effectively espousing the philosophy that life is beautiful - if you just let it come to you - BYU's "You Can't Take It With You" is a treat to break the monotony of a comfortable existence this summer; that is if father Paul Sycamore's fireworks don't set the Pardoe Theatre at the Harris Fine Arts Center on fire.