Rhawnhurst resident stars in comedy play

Rhawnhurst resident Bonnie Kaperstein is starring in a production of You Can’t Take It With You, a 1930’s-set comedy about a family determined to be happy.

On stage: Rhawnhurst resident Bonnie Kapenstein is starring in a production of You Can’t Take It With You, a 1930s-set comedy about a family determined to be happy. Source: Scott Grumling

When it’s your time to go, you can’t take everything with you.

That’s the main theme of You Can’t Take It With You, the play Rhawnhurst native Bonnie Kapenstein will be starring in starting Jan. 12.

If you can’t take everything with you, what can you take?

“I just retired this year, and you start to think about what you want to do with your life,” said Kapenstein, 61. “Do you want to work, work, work until you die, or do you want to find the time to enjoy your life, and find joy and pleasure doing things you love?”

The original comedy premiered on Broadway in 1936, where it was performed more than 800 times. It was written by playwright icons George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. The show was adapted into a film in 1938, and received the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director. The play was later revived in 1983, where it went on for another 300 performances.

Kapenstein plays Penny Sycamore, the mother of a family who marches to the beat of their own drum. Living in a bustling 1930s New York City, the family pursues hobbies they may not necessarily be good at, but make them happy, like typewriting, collecting snakes and constructing fireworks in their basement.

The dynamic of the family changes when Penny’s daughter becomes engaged to the straight-laced son of the owner of her company, and the family has to straighten up to meet their new potential in-laws.

This isn’t the first time Kapenstein has played a Sycamore. She played the oldest daughter who calls herself a ballerina in the same play back in the early ‘80s.

Director Noel Hanley sought out Kapenstein to audition for the role personally.

“Even though it was written in the ’30s, the comedy is still funny today,” Kapenstein said. “My son has been helping me with my lines, and he doesn’t even like theater but he’s been chuckling at some of the jokes.”

Kapenstein has lived in the Northeast since she was 4, moving to Rhawnhurst from Castor Gardens in 1990. She’s been involved in theater since at least 14 years old, when she played the lead role in a show the drama teacher wrote called Herman’s Hideaway.

When she was 16, she performed in the chorus line of a musical that played at a theater that used to be where the KleinLife building currently stands.

Retired as of September last year, Kapenstein is looking forward to having more time to get to the gym, volunteer, visit and babysit family, and of course, participate in theater.

Even though it’s a comedy, Kapenstein said the show has a huge heart.

“There’s a scene where the [family’s grandfather] is talking to a rich man, and he says, what are you going to do with all that money, you can’t take it with you when you pass,” Kapenstein said.

“It really struck me when my neighbor passed away a few months ago,” she said tearfully.

Hanley agreed that the movie had a heartwarming message.

“What I love watching every rehearsal are the scenes where the family members are in full swing,” Hanley said. “They are all enjoying their activities in the living room of the house, where the bulk of the action takes place. It doesn’t matter that no one is particularly adept at what they do, the point is they enjoy the exploration.”

The show will be presented at Allens Lane Art Center at 601 W. Allens Lane. It plays at 8 p.m. on Jan. 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27, and at 2 p.m. on Jan. 14, 21 and 28. ••

Logan Krum can be reached at lkrum@newspapermediagroup.com