Spend an enjoyable evening with the the lovably eccentric family of Alice Sycamore in Pennsylvania Playhouse's playful production of the classic comedy "You Can't Take it With You."
Director Brian McDermott has assembled a cast who bring the family to endearing life as they clash with a purportedly "normal" family of Alice's boyfriend Tony.
Set in the 1940s, the comedy is presented in three acts with two brief intermissions and the first act introduces the whole wacky clan
.Anchoring the family is the caring and unassuming patriach Grandpa Vanderhof who quit his job after deciding he would be happier not working. John Corl makes Grandpa an amiable but encouraging presence.
His daughter Penny is a neophyte playwright and artist played with idiosyncratic charm by Elain Pfeil. Her husband Paul is played by Thomas Mattei who gives the character who makes fireworks in the basement an appealing quirkiness. He is assisted by Mr. DePinna played with impetuousness by Thomas Rush.
Penny and Paul's daughters are Alice and Essie. Essie, given a naive nuttiness by Stephanie Gawlas Walsh, is a candymaker and a wannabe ballerina who is actually pretty terrible according to her overbearing Russian dance teacher Boris Kolenkhov played by Jeremy Thompson. Essie is married to the equally kooky Ed (Ryan MacNamara ) who plays an onstage xylophone and delivers boxes of Essie's candy.
Rounding out the genial but chaotic household is the cheerful maid Rheba, played by Jennifer LaTorre and her simple boyfriend Donald who is persistently perky as played by chirpy by Zach Goodrich.
The comical assemblage is somewhat odd, but the characters all convey a feeling of warmth and support in the family.
Jenna McBreen's Alice is the one character who is somewhat detached and embarrassed by her family, when she brings home her boyfriend Tony, who is played with determined optimism by John Moss.
As Tony's parent's Gary Boyer is up-tight as the rigid Mr. Kirby and Susan Burnett is a completely brittle Mrs. Kirby.
When the Kirbys mistakenly come for dinner a day early they are appalled as they encounter Alice's family in all its wacky glory.
Adding to the craziness is Kelly Herbert James as a woozy drunken actress supposed to read for one of Penny's plays and Trina Johnson-Brady as a regal but disenfranchised duchess who stays for dinner.
There also is a subplot dealing with the IRS and unpaid taxes that brings several government agents to the home to add even more hilarious pandemonium.
The antic action all takes place in the family's New York home attractively constructed by McDermott and Dan Lewis. Costumes by Todd Burkell successfully recreate the time period.
Lighting by Hunter Lewis is only partially effective in creating the feel of fireworks, since the incendiary devices couldn't be used on stage. However, the fireworks sound effects are more successful.
Overall, the show is successful as a funny and whimsical romp with a big heart at its core.
"You Can't Take it With You," 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, through April 9, Pennsylvania Playhouse, Illick's Mill Road, Bethlehem. Tickets: $25; $22, seniors and students (except Saturday). paplayhouse.org, 610-865-6665.