"You Can't Take It With You"

Elle Romanin, Oregon High School junior, playing Alice Sycamore, rehearses getting engaged to Tony Kirby, played by Will Oelke, senior as part of the “You Can’t Take It With You” play Feb. 11.

In his first year directing a play, Oregon High School English teacher Mike Ducett said he chose “You Can’t Take It With You” for students to perform because of its commentary about wealth — it doesn’t come with you when you die.

The play, written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, premiered on Broadway in 1936 and tells the story of an “eccentric” and “Bohemian” family living during the Great Depression, Ducett said. The first act begins with Grandpa Vanderhof and his family, the Sycamores, in 1930s New York City, New York.

Each family member engages in odd hobbies, which include collecting snakes, building fireworks in the basement, writing plays that never get published and taking ballet lessons.

Ducett said Alice Sycamore, who seems to be the only “normal” person in the family, falls in love with the vice president of her company, Tony Kirby. While “practical” things like the government and taxes don’t concern Alice’s family, they certainly concern her, he said.

Tony and Alice become engaged, and the Vanderhof/Sycamore clan must change their ways to meet Alice’s future in-laws, but an evening meant for love and celebration ends with all the Sycamore’s getting arrested.

For Ducett, as much as he liked the play’s lessons and story, he also felt it would help get as many students involved as possible, as the casting calls for 16 people. He said the students also helped put together “one of the biggest sets we’ve had for a straight play.”

“It’s a classic ensemble piece where it features numerous talented students,” Ducett told the Observer.

And from table reads to rehearsal, he said he’s gotten his students to understand the subtle nuances of the script and the context for which it was written. He asks them how the play might connect to modern times and how they might put themselves in their character’s shoes.

“They learn how to collaborate with one another to work toward the greater good of experiencing a piece of art,” Ducett said.

Performances are 7 p.m. Feb. 22 and 23 and 2 p.m., Feb. 24 at the OHS Performing Arts Center, 456 N. Perry Pkwy.

Tickets for the play cost $10 for adults and $8 for students and senior-citizens.

For information, contact Oregon High School at 835-4300.

Email Emilie Heidemann at emilie.heidemann@wcinet.com or follow her on Twitter at @HeidemannEmilie.