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A forerunner of the modern situation comedy, the Pulitzer Prize-winner YouCan’t Take it with You has been produced somewhere every year since first being staged in 1936.

New York-based actor/director Chris Hutchison ’91 has returned to campus to direct College Theater’s production of the play, which was performed Wednesday and Thursday and will continue its run tonight and Saturday at the Williams Center for the Arts. Tickets cost $6 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 610-330-5009.

The beloved American classic by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart introduces a strait-laced young banker, Tony Kirby, to the wacky collection of artists, free spirits, and harmless misfits that is his fiancée’s family. Despite a potentially disastrous family dinner, even Tony’s stuffy Wall Street father is ultimately charmed by the happy madness of the Sycamore household and learns to embrace their unorthodox pursuit of happiness.

“The play was written in 1936 and it’s still truly hilarious,” says Hutchison. “To meet a new group of enthusiastic actors and see how we can all do it justice is a real joy for someone who loves the theater.”

Hutchison, who earned an MFA in acting from University of Washington, is also teaching an introductory course on acting this semester at Lafayette. His well received portrayal of Yank in the Keen Company’s revival of the 1945 wartime play The Hasty Heart in New York City earned him notice on as a supporting player with a promising future. stated, “Hutchison is ideal as ‘Yank,’ the good natured Southerner whose constant coping with a speech impediment doesn’t prevent him from speaking his mind,” while credited him with acquitting himself admirably with a “very moving” performance in a difficult leading role. Other recent work has included an episode of “Guiding Light” in December, a couple episodes of “All My Children” in January, and a radio voiceover for a Zantac commercial.

Prior work since directing The American Dreamat Lafayette in September 2003 included playing Hal in Alley Theatre’s production of Proof in Houston and Dallas, then roles in Fuddy Meers and Rounding Third, two plays at the Capital Repertory Theater in Albany, N.Y. He spent last summer as an acting company member and adjunct professor at Breadloaf School of English in Middlebury, Vt., then played the Duke in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.

In the period briefly before The American Dream, Hutchison was a guest star on an episode of the NBC sitcom “Ed” and acted in a new play presented by New Federal Theater, Whose Family Values!, which opened in May 2003 at the Clurman Theater in Manhattan. His career has included many other roles in theater. An English graduate who was active in College Theater as a student, Hutchison directed Eric Bogosian’s subUrbia at the Williams Center in April 2002.

In YouCan’t Take it with You, neuroscience major Carey Wilson ’07 (Hamilton, N.Y.) plays Penelope Sycamore, a gentle, kind woman in her early ‘50s who can’t figure out whether she is a writer, painter, or other artistic type, so she enthusiastically does it all, never finishing what she starts.

“What I find most interesting about playing Penny is that in many instances, she reminds me of my own mother: goofy, accepting, loving and young at heart,” she says. “This has helped me to better understand my character as I try to bring her to life. However, as you can see, I am not a 50-year-old woman and I do not have any children, so it’s sometimes difficult to know just how a mother would feel in some of the more emotional scenes.”

“Chris is a great acting teacher and is really helping me think about situations in a way that I can relate to,” she adds. “I’ve never acted before, so all of this is very new to me. He basically breaks down each sentence and each movement and gives it significance. However, Chris brings such energy to the show that it makes me want to work even harder just to please him. We’re having a great time with this show!”

Wilson is a member of the women’s soccer team and the Martial Arts Club and volunteers with Equi-librium, a program that provides horse-assisted therapy for children and adults with cognitive and physical disabilities.

English major Kiira Benzing ’07 (Ridgewood, N.J.) is taking on the romantic lead, portraying 22-year-old Alice, who is in love with Tony, her boss’ son.

“At first I found Alice incredibly one-dimensional, funny but still sort of pathetic, constantly searching for pity in her family’s crazy world,” she says. “With time I began to find Alice’s heart and true love for both her family and her fiancée and now I really understand why she is so torn between two very different worlds, that of her happy-go-lucky family the Sycamores and the uptight, realistic Kirbys. She is definitely a creature of both worlds, born as a high spirited, determined person and destined to marry into a much more concrete family. Fortunately for her, Tony is the perfect match to balance her.”

Finding what makes Alice fit into both the Sycamore and Kirby worlds has been the biggest struggle, says Benzing.

“At first I found her too normal, but she could never call herself a Sycamore without ever enjoying life,” she explains. “Like the Sycamores, Alice is a dreamer and she just happens to have found the love of her life not in her fantasies, but in the real world; it is this bridge between fantasy and realism that has been hard. Making Alice long for life in a real world while keeping her rooted in her family’s fun-loving life has been hard.”

Benzing worked with Hutchison last school year when he directed The American Dream, in which she portrayed an 85-year-old woman.

“Last year we spent ample time working on elderly intricacies whereas now we’re just working on bringing myself into the character and fleshing Alice out with some real dimension,” says Benzing. “Chris just has this incredibly dynamic personality and he’s always excited to work and to try new things. He’s rather experimental and open to letting actors go with their impulse and if we stride far from the point of the text, he redirects us back on track.

“One of the things I love most about working with Chris is the metaphors he creates to help us see inside our characters. It has been wonderful to work with him again; I look forward to another great show!”

In addition to The American Dream, Benzing has performed in the College Theater productions Uncommon Women and OthersandThe Cherry Orchard. She was assistant director and stage manager for Boy Gets Girl, assistant stage manager for Far Away, and assistant lighting designer for the Marquis Players’ You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown.

Director: Chris Hutchison ’91
Stage Manager: English major Sarah Templeton ’06 (Metuchen, N.J.)
Assistant Director/Assistant Stage Manager: English major Sarah Thompson ’07 (New Canaan, Conn.)
Set Design: Dick Kendrick
Lighting Design: Vicki Neal
Costume Design: D. Polly Kendrick
Sound Design: Timothy Frey
Board operators and run crew: art major Davita Crawford ’05 (West Orange, N.J.), economics and business major Wes Erbe ’05 (Wall, N.J.), economics and business major Travis Hutson ’07 (Jacksonville, Fla.), biology major Chuck Lemken ’06 (Emerson, N.J.), and government and law major Marvin Snipes ’07 (Philadelphia, Pa.).

The Vanderhof/Sycamore Family
Penelope Sycamore — neuroscience major Carey Wilson ’07 (Hamilton, N.Y.)
Paul – international affairs and French double major Eric Merklinger ’05 (Plainfield, N.J.)
Mr. DePinna – chemical engineering major Luke Landherr ’05 (Preston, Conn.)
Essie — Caitlin Burke ’08 (Charlton, Mass.)
Ed – neuroscience major T.J. Maglione ’05 (Harriman, N.Y.)
Martin Vanderhof – mathematics major Jonathan Maier ’07 (Scranton, Pa.)
Alice – English major Kiira Benzing ’07 (Ridgewood, N.J.)

The Kirbys
Tony Kirby — Charles Felix ’08 (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Mr. Kirby — Bill O’Brien ’07 (Elmont, N.Y.)
Mrs. Kirby – religious studies and music double major Jessica Lenza ’05 (Hackettstown, N.J.)
The Help
Rheba — Erica Hiar ’08 (Savage, Minn.)
Donald — Chris Jupitz ’08 (Grasonville, Md.)

The Rest
Henderson — Rich Beatty ’08 (Milford, N.J.)
Boris Kolenkhov – electrical and computer engineering major John Kolba ’06 (Chelmsford, Mass.)
Gay Wellington – English major Sandra Welch ’06 (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Olga — Lenza
3 G-Men – economics and business major Jeff Lininger ’07 (Malvern, Pa.), history major Steve Schrum ’05 (Flanders, N.J.), and government and law major Richard Williams ’06 (Redmond, Wash.)


Chris Hutchison ’91 (far right) directs College Theater students in a rehearsal for You Can’t Take it with You.

Categorized in: Students