George S. Kaufman & Moss Hart's comedy, You Can't Take It With You, has likely received thousands of stagings since it won the Pulitzer in 1936, but not many are like the current Off-Broadway mounting opening tonight, Feb. 17.
That's because the National Asian American Theatre Company (NATCO) and Ma-Yi Ensemble co-production is cast entirely with Asian-American actors. Henry Yuk plays the wise grandfather in the show, which is directed by Stephen Stout. Also in the cast are Boni Alvarez, Roxanne Baisas, J.B. Barricklo, Constance Boardman, Gusti Bogard, Millie Chow, Rudy Hermano, Marcus Ho, Tim Huang, Jodi Lin, Michael Minn, Nicky Paraiso, Ralph Pena and Virginia Wang.
According to spokesperson Sam Rudy (of Shirley Herz Associates), expected to attend opening night, Feb. 17, is Anne Kaufman Schneider, daughter of playwright George S.
Designing this look at an eccentric but admirable American family are Kaori Akazawa (set), Joe Saint (lighting) and Elly van Horne (costumes).
Asked the significance of the company name, "Ma-Yi," press representative Gary Springer explained that Ma-Yi is Chinese for ants. "Back in pre- history, Chinese traders sailed along the coast of the Phillippines and saw all these little islands that looked like ants. It wasn't until the Spanish came and named the islands for King Philip of Spain that the islands became the Philippines." And why did the new theatre ensemble choose "ants" as its moniker? "The significance is that the Philippines were around before the Western and Spanish influence." The theatre was founded in 1989 to further Filipino and Filipino-American artists.
NATCO, formed the same year, hopes to bring Asian-American artists to classic western theatre, without imposing "Asian cultural references" on the text.
Kaufman & Hart also penned The Man Who Came To Dinner and Merrily We Roll Along.
For tickets ($15) and information on You Can't Take It With You, which began previews Feb. 14 and runs to March 7 at the Connelly Theatre, 220 East 4th St, call (212) 505-3003.
-- By David Lefkowitz