Q&A: Cast of Soulpepper's You Can't Take It With You

Interview with Sabryn Rock, Krystin Pellerin and Gregory Prest

Sabryn Rock, Krystin Pellerin and Gregory Prest. Photo by Nathan Kelly.

Soulpepper's latest production of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman's You Can't Take It With You (1936) starts previews tomorrow, Thursday April 19. Directed by Soulpepper founding member Joseph Ziegler, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play features an impressive ensemble of Canadian talent, including Eric Peterson, John Jarvis, Diego Matamoros and Nancy Palk. Here, we chat with cast members  Sabryn Rock, Krystin Pellerin and Gregory Prest, about this classic American comedy.

Theatromania: Tell us about each of your characters. Can you relate to them?

SR: Rheba is the housekeeper–the glue that holds the Sycamore family together. She literally keeps the house in order, or, as much as she can with all the individual hobbies and noises going on and off. I think she’s happy to be working for a family who treats her as one of their own.

KP: I play Alice Sycamore, the only conventional daughter in the very eccentric Sycamore family. I can definitely relate to Alice’s need to feel accepted and her struggle to please others while staying true to who she is and where she comes from.

GP: I play Tony Kirby, the boss’s son and vice-president of Kirby and Co., who falls in love
with Alice Sycamore. He comes from a very straight-laced conservative family and finds joy and inspiration in the nut-bar Sycamores. When Alice plans a dinner for the two families to meet–with moves to prune the house and family of their idiosyncrasies–Tony foils it by bringing his parents a night early to meet them as they really are. I think we all have had a moment when we wished our families could be different–a little
more this, a little less that.

Theatromania: If you could play any other character in the play who would it be?

SR: I love the character of Essie Carmichael and her non-stop commitment to the world of
dance. She refuses to give up her dream and insists on trying to realize it every minute
of the play. I love how driven she is but also her innocence and naivete to the outside world is pretty charming.

KP: I would want to play either Ed, because he gets to play the xylophone, or Essie because she gets to dance through the whole play. Both would be a lot of fun and I’d get to learn something brand new.

GP: There are so many great characters in this play–it really is an ensemble piece. I wouldn’t mind getting a crack at all of them.

Theatromania: What is the best part about working with a large cast? The most challenging part?

SR: The best part about a large cast is always having several things to watch. No matter
where you look in the rehearsal room or onstage there’s always something interesting and
highly entertaining to witness. The most challenging part is constantly getting distracted by the hilarity…

KP: The best part is figuring out the play in rehearsal together. It is a true ensemble piece and it feels so great when we figure out the timing and the rhythm of the scenes as we go along. We are playing a big family and I feel very close to everyone on and off stage. The most challenging part of working together is keeping a straight face because we are having such a good time and the play has so many hilarious moments, it’s hard not to crack up.

GP: The best part of working with a large cast is the feeling of a big extended family. At any point there are a dozen conversations going on–having a laugh, catching up, getting tips on potty training, reminiscing about a shared experience 30 years ago. Also there’s a higher chance that someone will bring in baked goods. The most challenging part is focusing during that oh-so-unfocusable 3:00 mark. Also, keeping a straight face.

Theatromania: Why is this play relevant today?

SR: This play is relevant today because it evokes the timeless message of being one's self; so as not to miss out on the fun things in life.

KP: The play is about accepting who you are and what you love in life. It’s a message that speaks to everybody at some point I think.

GP: I don’t know if the play is relevant today–I think that’s something for every individual who comes into contact with it has to think about and decide. It definitely isn’t irrelevant. I think it is a valuable play. I am moved by it. It makes me think; question what I hold important in my life. It makes me laugh. If you don’t experience laughter, thought or emotion while watching it, I’ll eat my shorts.

Theatromania: Any comedic behind-the-scenes stories from rehearsal?

KP: There have been so many great flubs in rehearsal, it’s hard to pick just one.

GP: When you get this many clowns in a room together, there are countless comedic behind the scenes shenanigans! Joe leads such a creative room where we’re encouraged to try things out and take chances. This leads to some amazing moments of comic genius. In the end, it may not be right for the scene or the play, so the audience will never see it, but it makes us giggle.

Theatromania: What do you hope audiences take away from You Can't Take It With You?

SR: I hope that people will come see the show and forget about the bad day they had at work or that rude person on the subway and be transported into a fantastic household that
never seems to be affected by negative things. It’s always nice to just sit back, watch a
story unfold and laugh unapologetically. I hope this play will have everyone leaving the
theatre with a smile.

KP: I hope the audience leaves feeling uplifted. It’s a beautiful love story and a great comedy. It’s a play about following your heart and I hope the audience feels encouraged to do the same.

GP: I hope the audience leaves lighter-hearted than when they came in.

You Can't Take It With You runs from April 19 to June 21 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. Visit soulpepper.ca for more information and to buy tickets.


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