The Ice Cream Day

I put myself on assignment for the final full day of my vacation in Southern California last Monday: eat as much ice cream as I could stomach. So I ate ice cream three times at three different places over the span of a day.

That rate of consumption would get me disowned by the employees at my Planet Fitness if they ever found about this, but vacations are made for craziness like this ice cream challenge; carpe diem is Latin for “YOLO.” (The kids still say “YOLO,” right?)

So at 11:15 am — just after finishing a double-double meal at In-N-Out Burger for breakfast — I set out from Burbank on an hour-long drive to Brea in Orange County. My destination: Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour, whose famous sundaes I heard about through the KTLA Morning News, which promoted the Brea restaurant’s annual ice cream eating contest.

Farrell’s took me back to the nineteenth century. A general store at the front was stocked with candy, toys, and Farrell’s-branded items available. The wait staff wore straw hats and black and white striped shirts, akin to Dick van Dyke’s garb in the animated/live-action portion of Mary Poppins, while the bar/ice cream staff donned blue and white striped shirts. Most telling, however, is that the menu is designed and printed as a newspaper.

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[My date night consisted of me sitting solo in the Farrell's bar. At noon. On a Monday. Romance is not dead.]

I zipped straight to the desserts on the menu, which featured a combined 11 flavors of ice cream and sorbet and 17 different sundaes to choose from. Farrell’s Rocky Road Sundae. Triple Chocolate Brownie Sundae. Black and White Sundae. Gold Rush Sundae. Nutty Nutty Hot Caramel Sundae. The number of choices was overwhelming; in the 10 minutes I spent in First World indecision, the wait staff of three made two birthday sundaes, marched to the birthday tables, sang a personalized birthday song for each celebrant, and delivered those birthday sundaes.

In the spirit of going all in, I selected the Triple Chocolate Brownie Sundae: three scoops of vanilla ice cream served with three Ghirardelli brownies, sandwiched by hot fudge on the bottom and whipped cream and a cherry on top. I stepped away from my seat at the bar for five minutes to walk around; the sundae in a Farrell’s glass sat pretty in front of my seat when I returned.

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After basking in the joy at this mountain of sugar in front of me, reality set in: how do I eat this without creating a mess? The three brownies and two scoops of ice cream packed into the glass slightly spilled off the lip, which reminded me of those bros who cram their torso into a size small t-shirt instead of going for an appropriate large. The third scoop of ice cream on top looked impossible to pick apart without it toppling onto the countertop. My waitress, Hannah, saved the day by providing an extra cup to dump that scoop in; my conundrum is so common among customers that the staff suggests the extra cup.

This sundae was clearly made for two people, but through perseverance and taking my sweet time, I finished the $10.25 dessert with no shame. The brownies were obviously delicious because they were from Ghirardelli; the ice cream was churned so well that melting wasn’t a pressing issue as I slowly ate my way through the sundae. The only part where I disappointed myself was forgetting to move some of the excess chocolate syrup collected on the bottom of the glass to the ice cream sitting inside my extra cup — it would have been like I had two sundaes instead of one. On the bright side, this is something to look forward to the next time I visit Southern California.

After the taping of the Late Late Show, I drove the seven blocks east along Beverly Boulevard for Milk, the site of my next ice cream escapade. My sister recommended Milk, a tiny ice cream shop and restaurant, last year after one of the foodie Instagram accounts she follows posted a picture of the restaurant’s signature macaron ice cream sandwiches. Because Milk uses macarons, the ice cream sandwiches circles; I eyeballed the diameter of the sandwich to be about four inches and the depth to be three inches.

Like at Farrell’s, the sheer number of options forced me to step aside and think about what to get. Red velvet? Vanilla (crammed between black and white macarons)? Green tea? Get creative and create my own ice cream sandwich for the same $5 price?!

Confronted with too many viable options, I went conservative: a cookies and cream ice cream sandwich with chocolate macarons and a chocolate milk on the side. The best part about the sandwich was that it wasn’t teeth-crushing hard when I first bit into it. The macarons were light and fluffy and the ice cream was soft; I could taste the flavors easily. Yes, the sandwich was also delicious — you could infer that from the photo — and, because of its modest size, didn’t make me feel guilty after I finished it. That makes it a winner in my book.

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My last stop was the BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, best known for its pizookie, the personal pan baked cookie topped with three scoops of ice cream. I arrived at the Burbank restaurant only two hours after my stop at Milk, but I again invoked “the last day of vacation” to justify getting the spaghetti and meatballs for dinner and then a peanut butter cookie pizookie for dessert. I already knew ahead of time that all of that plus whatever I had at Milk would take over the edge.

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Oh, boy.

It was a struggle to finish the pizookie, even though I persevered and took my time, just like at Farrell’s. The tower of vanilla ice cream atop the cookie melted a little too fast for me; the soft ice cream provided relief while I struggled to chew the solid cookie. It was delicious, but the pizookie broke me physically when I was down to the final bites. Only stubbornness propelled me to finish it.

I returned to my hotel at 10 pm and set my alarm for 3 am before crashing to sleep. As part of my atonement for my ice cream adventure, I would run the treadmill before I drove to LAX for my flight. What a great way to get me to exercise for the first time on this vacation.

See You Later, Craig

The very first thing I saw on the TV screens lining Studio 56 of the CBS Television City was Craig Ferguson, a middle-aged Scottish man in a suit and tie, jumping in view, dancing and lip-syncing to one of the most legendary songs in pop culture.

That song was Britney Spears’s ‘Oops… I Did It Again.’

The video of this 2005 ‘Late Late Show’ cold open was shown to the audience of Monday’s taping to warm up the crowd, but it was also a reminder of the extent that Ferguson has gone to deconstruct the late night format with his absurd brand of humor. There’s the robot skeleton sidekick, Geoff Peterson, voiced and controlled by comedian Josh Robert Thompson. There’s the fake horse for a silent sidekick, Secretariat, portrayed by two men in a Halloween horse costume. There’s the cold open, which cycles through puppets, musical numbers, improvised chats with Peterson, and interrogations of audience members for a free fancy dinner on CBS’s tab. There’s the reading of Tweets and emails, where Ferguson and Peterson riff off each other some more. There’s the cursing. Then there’s Ferguson’s M.O. for interviews: make it an authentic conversation between two friends; no scripted questions allowed.

It’s the mosh pit of late night TV and with its nine year run coming to an end on December 19th, I made the cross country trip to attend Monday’s taping with 159 other people in the audience. At Bob the Warm-up Comedian’s behest — after all, he allegedly needed today’s paycheck to buy his three-year-old son a yo-yo for his birthday on Tuesday — the audience “sprinkled [Ferguson] with love drops” when the Scottish host stepped onto the stage to begin the taping.

Yes, it would be that kind of show.

To capitalize on the noise that the crowd of 160 created, the production skipped the cold open and went straight to filming the monologue. This was a personal treat; the July 2011 filming I attended didn’t include a monologue at all. The high point of this segment was the game of one-up between Ferguson and Geoff on who can come up with the most disgusting renaming of a Tom Petty song, now that the singer/songwriter is 64 years old. Ferguson’s “Balls Dropping” for “Free Falling” won, because it was that kind of show.

The show circled back to the cold open, where Ferguson charmed an Australian mother and daughter with the standard Southern Hemisphere jokes and gave them a dinner to a swanky Italian restaurant for correctly guessing that Australia’s tallest person is “eh?” After another seconds-long break (the taping of a show becomes more efficient when there is no house band), Ferguson got to the Tweets and emails, where he spent more time chatting with Geoff about time traveling. Per his usual excellence, Thompson took the conversation to a zanier level and forced Ferguson to break into laughter like an audience member. To end the segment, Thompson impersonated a future version of Ferguson and called the present-day host by landline phone with a warning that he’ll turn into a combination of a used car dealer and Jame Gumb from Silence of the Lambs.

Yeah. Creepy future to think about over the commercial break.

Ferguson was at his best again in the conversations with Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story) and Jim Rash (Community and Mike Tyson Mysteries). As I’ve gone over before: no planned questions and no planned gags from Ferguson; it’s all charisma and spontaneity — and that brings out the unplugged honesty and humor from his guests. When Paulson brought up that she can’t get away from chicken and turkey in her attempts to become a vegetarian, Ferguson twisted her words and ferociously gobbled at Paulson. This set off a chain of conversation about veganism that culminated with Paulson describing that she can’t eat crabs because crabs poop inside themselves and the only edible portion of the crabs are their internals of the crustaceans. Now that you know this fact about crab bowel movements, you’ll become the most popular person in a party when you bring this up to break the ice. With Rash, Ferguson guided the conversation from traveling in Japan to a phone call from the guy who hosts To Catch a Predator, searching for Rash for the (made-up) story that he called Ferguson’s son for platonic reasons.

The filming finished in 56 minutes, the quickest taping of any of the late night shows I’ve attended. The lights shut off on the stage and the crew rushed backstage before the crowd could exit the studio. The dark studio is an image that’ll be imprinted in my mind for awhile, symbolic of the end of Ferguson’s time at the helm of the Late Late Show when 2014 ends. The chaotic way he conducted his show kept me entertained and provided much-needed laughs during the dog days of high school and college, and his self-deprecating style was one factor in helping me discover the mantra of not taking myself so seriously. That preserved my sanity in the face of failure after failure in college, whether it was related to academics or personal life. His monologues were my earliest introduction to improvisation, which I now fully appreciate after seeing multiple longform shows at the Upright Citizens Brigade theatres. This foundation piece for my sense of humor today will be gone by Christmas — perfect timing for losing something so cherished — but it’s a gentle reminder to me that as I get older, all the good things I know now will eventually come to an end.

Upon crossing the exit from the CBS Television City building to the cacophony of Los Angeles, I turned to my right and saw a poster next to the door I took. It was a poster of a 40-something year old Craig Ferguson and his gig, the Late Late Show, now aged and faded by the bounty of California sunshine it was exposed to during the past nine years. In his cowboy fashion, Ferguson probably didn’t care to have another publicity photo taken to update this poster.

That “who gives a crap?” attitude Ferguson had toward his show is what made it so genuine, endearing, and funny. Ferguson was a reluctant host, but he found a way to inject life into the late night format by trashing the platform he stood on — and it worked for nine years. I’ll miss the mess he made, but before it gets cleaned up in 2015, I’ll savor every last bit of it with my DVR over the next two months.

The Terminal II: I’m Still an Idiot

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Fifteen months ago, I spent a night at the luxurious Los Angeles International Airport, waiting for the arrival of my friends’ flight instead of sleeping over at one of the many hotels surrounding the facility. Because I’m cheap. Because I said this would only be a one-time thing.

As I type this, it’s 4:50 am on the east coast and 1:50 am where I am currently sitting. Sitting inside Los Angeles International Airport. Sitting inside the same terminal I wasted time in last July.

I am a moron.

I disembarked my flight at midnight local time, five hours before I said I’d pick up my rental car so I can drive to some bar in Orange Country and watch my beloved Crystal Palace F.C. play the champions-in-waiting Chelsea at 7 am local time. In lieu of thinking about my well-being — getting an appropriate night’s sleep — I once again went the cheap route, deciding that it was not worth grabbing a temporary hotel room for $100 just to sleep for five hours. I could get that beauty sleep for free if I just napped inside the terminal.

As you can see, this sleeping thing is working out well.

The terminal is more subdued this time compared to my July 2013 stay. There is only one other passenger hanging out in my line of sight; the others seemed to have used their brain and found a place with a bed to crash. The lack of people doesn’t mean the place is hauntingly quiet, though. A turquoise Tennant 7100 rider scrubber has been keeping me company for the last hour, canvassing the hallway up and down, up and down. This machine is mopping up the place for the mob of passengers that will probably show up in about two hours for their 6 am flights.

I’ve been listening to the rider scrubber for so long now that I’m starting to think it would be a brilliant idea to make a soothing sounds CD of just rider scrubber noise. The noise that sounds like a sick person constantly blowing his nose, alternating the additional suctioning noise that an industrial vacuum makes.

This is Bliss. (Or Stockholm Syndrome.)

My laptop says it’s 5:07 am and you can’t imagine the disappointment I felt when I remembered that my laptop is still on Eastern Time and not Pacific Time.

The rider scrubber completed its job and is now silenced, allowing my ears to rediscover that other sounds do in fact exist in this world. There’s a speaker somewhere behind me blasting Justin Timberlake’s ‘SexyBack’ and the moderately-loud handheld vacuum picking up dust and crumbs and loose hairs from the waiting area of Gate 72. The message warning passengers that there is a limit to the amount of liquid you can put in a carry-on bag takes its turn in the cycle of automated PA announcements.

The lights are still on for all the stores, with the silver gates closing off their entrances. The departures board next to the kitson already has the early morning flights neatly displayed.

Life goes on in the airport. Another rider scrubber shows up to clean up the hallway behind me. I’m taking this scrubber’s presence as a sign to wrap this up; its obnoxious noise is the perfect soundtrack for falling asleep in here.

A Canadian Thanksgiving with Seth

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Bucket list item achieved on Canadian Thanksgiving: I spoke to an NBC page.

OK, so I had to modify this item because Kenneth Parcell isn’t a real page for NBC, nor a real human being. But after speaking to five – FIVE – NBC pages to check-in as an audience member for Late Night with Seth Meyers on Monday, it doesn’t really matter who I spoke to. Regis Philbin once donned the navy blazer of an NBC page, as did America’s favorite deliverer of deadpan, Aubrey Plaza. Kate from Chicago or Mia from Albany or the any of the other pages who shuttled me to my seat may become the next big name in entertainment and I can say I knew them before they made it.

To get to the show’s home at Studio 8H, the audience members take an elevator to the eighth floor, then walk through a hallway lined with photos of pivotal scenes from Saturday Night Live. At the end of the hallway was a glass window where I peered into Studio 8H, the home of Saturday Night Live. When Studio 8H isn’t in use, like on Monday night, the messy collection of sets and props planted on the main stage make 8H look like a prop warehouse.

Because I was a party of one, the pages stuck me in the leftmost seat on the front row, next to two brunette college students and right behind the control center for the producers. Four rows behind me sat the plaid-clad Saturday Night Live writer Mike O’Brien, who is a giant. That may have been because I was seated when he walked by me, but he’s a lot taller than I expected.

Ten minutes before filming commenced, warm-up comedian Ryan Reiss (formerly of Crowd Goes Wild, R.I.P.) proclaimed the return of Fred Armisen to the 8G Band. Armisen, who missed more than a month to film Portlandia, received an applause that the Late Night staff expected of us when Seth arrived — and it only got louder when the 8G Band kicked things off with an impressive cover of Billy Idol’s Dancing with Myself. The only thing more impressive than the performance was guitarist Marnie Stern dancing and jumping to the song in heels while playing her instrument. I’m always impressed with how women make walking in heels look easy; multi-tasking in heels blew me away.

Seth made his first appearance to Fred-like fanfare two minutes before showtime, giving a brief history of Studio 8G — the original home of Jeopardy! and The Phil Donahue Show — before running backstage for the opening. (Studio 8G was also the old home of Football Night in America, the pregame show hosted by Dan Patrick for NBC’s Sunday Night Football. It’s a versatile studio.)

The clock struck 6:30 pm and right on cue, the 8G Band cranks out the intro theme to Late Night.

The first 15 minutes zoomed by, with the monologue and story time, the improvised dialogue between Seth and Fred, and the “Famous Quote/First Drafts” segments filmed in a single extended take. Throughout the minty monologue — the security staffer stationed next to my seat treated himself to a fragrant strip of gum as the show began — I mentally timed how often Seth kept his right hand in his pocket (often), then switched to the 8G Band to see which jokes drew laughs from its members (keyboardist Eli Janney is the biggest laughter; Marnie Stern is the toughest to solve), then switched to the red marker of a control center producer as he crossed off each joke from a list (check!). I only excel at multi-tasking when seated.

The improvised chat between Seth and Fred about the latter’s suburban Chicago summer camp for cats — the aptly-named Fred’s Dogs — held my undivided attention. The same could be said about the music that the 8G Band played between takes; I’d buy an mp3 album for a reading soundtrack, if I could. During those music breaks, Seth ran to the control center in front of me to get his directions for the next segment, but the music was too loud for me to eavesdrop.

After the interviews with Minnie Driver and Ike Barinholtz, the production took an extended break to set up the two performances by Florida Georgia Line, which freed Seth to answer about seven minutes worth of questions from the audience. During this pause, Seth revealed that he keeps a picture at home of his two spouses, a disgusted Stefon standing beside a happy Mrs. Meyers, and recorded a birthday greeting to a mother whose daughter and son left her at home to attend this filming.

The Florida Georgia Line performance came and thankfully ended by 7:35 pm and I made my train with four minutes to spare. That is what I call a victorious ending to my Canadian Thanksgiving.

The Folks in Red

About a month ago, my local Target removed the two “10 items or fewer” checkout lines and replaced them with four self-checkout kiosks. Since then, I’ve conducted an unscientific experiment each time I visit the store to grocery shop (so, weekly visits, unless I forget to buy milk again, in which case it’s twice a week): will customers now flock to the self-checkout line or continue to use the staffed cash registers?

The results have surprised me: customers continue to go to the cashiers.

The first time I saw the self-checkout kiosks opened, I saw people in long lines for the cashier, even though no other customers were at the four kiosks. (I used the kiosk that night to skip the long lines.) The most common situation I see at the store is three people manning the registers versus the four self-checkout kiosks, and when I’m ready to pay, it’s usually one customer paying at a kiosk and the four or five other customers lining up for a cashier. I mean, the kiosks are open and you get control over the entire process. You no longer have to tell the cashier to bag that gallon of milk!

(Yes, it’s more efficient when unloading groceries to have the gallon bagged.)

Now the obvious question I want answered — but can’t, because it’s just too darn weird to randomly approach other customers without a press pass or some scientific credential — is why?

Is it out of habit that most people continue to flock to the cashiers? Are people too lazy to scan and bag their own purchases? Do the people prefer the minute or two of human interaction with the cashier?

I suspect that for most people, it’s some combination of the first two options above. Old habits die hard and the less work we can put into something with good results, the better.

As for me, it’s a combination of the latter two options. I’m a pretty terrible bagger. Today, I put a loaf of bread with a can of Chef Boyardee and refrigerated Italian sausage in one bag; a package of lunch ham, cheese, and a box of Ritz peanut butter sandwiches in a second bag; and a half gallon of milk and a 59 oz bottle of Gold Peak sweet tea in a third bag because I like to test the tensile strength of plastic bags to their limit.

(And while I didn’t forget to buy the milk this time, I forgot to buy the chocolate syrup. And the protein shake crap. See you on Tuesday, Target!)

As for the human interaction part: in my line of work, most of my interaction with other people is through phone calls. I know, I know, the social skills and engineers jokes write themselves so easily. So it’s nice for me to actually speak to another human being, face-to-face, after a workday — even if it’s just the customary exchange of…

“Hello! How are you?”
“Good, thanks, and you?”
“Good, thank you. Do you want this milk in a bag?”

And depending on who I’m speaking to, I’ll throw in a smile or a nod akin to an extra “thanks” to top off the five minutes I spend at the register. Five minutes where I (and hopefully the cashier, too) feel like a human being again and not just a cog in the machine.

Farewell, Landon

In his 157th — and final — cap with the United States National Team, Landon Donovan did it all except score a goal.

Through 15 minutes, he instinctively reacted to a deflection and headed a ball on goal. He set up Mix Diskerud’s with a free kick cross that met Jozy Altidore at the end line, who delivered the pass that led to Diskerud’s goalscoring opportunity. He exemplified his role of captain for the night and played the consoling leader to Joe Gyau, whose night ended after suffering a knee injury at midfield.

Through 20 minutes, Donovan returned to his old favored position at left midfield, after the United States was forced to play a temporary 4-4-1 while Gyau’s substitute warmed up.

Through 25 minutes, he had his storybook ending in sight. With no one on him inside the box, Donovan shot the ball toward the far post, beating Ecuadorian goalkeeper Maximo Banguera.

*clang*

While Donovan’s shot beat the goalkeeper, it didn’t beat the far post, which denied the goal that probably could have prompted Jürgen Klinsmann to call time on Donovan’s national team career.

*moan x 36, 265*

Once the crowd of 36, 265 at East Hartford’s Rentschler Field processed that Donovan did not in fact score, that the ball bounced to the wrong side of the far post, the crowd took a collective groan and put their hands on top of their heads in disappointment.

Through 30 minutes, he was still on the pitch, even though he was only schedule to play 30 minutes. His shot off the post and Gyau’s injury appeared to have brought Donovan some extra time.

Through 38 minutes, the American Outlaws serenaded Donovan with a “Thank You, Landon” chant and Donovan hit a shot from outside the box that just went wide.

Through 40 minutes, the end was near. Joe Corona was up from the bench and was the lone American warming up on the sidelines.

Through 41 minutes, a poor back pass to Brad Guzan invited Ecuadorian pressure, leading to a corner kick for Ecuador. Before Ecuador could take the corner kick, the fourth official intervened.

In red on the board: 10. In green on the board: 15.

Donovan shook the hands of the referees and Ecuadorians on the pitch and gave hugs to each of his teammates. You could say that Altidore and Donovan shared more of an embrace than a hug, before Donovan slipped the captain’s armband on his strike partner. Klinsmann welcomed Donovan to retirement on the touchline with a hug and a few whispered words, before the Americans on the bench greeted Donovan with smiles and high fives for a job well done.

After 14 years, 57 goals, and 58 assists with the United States National Team, it’s over. Although Donovan provided two of the biggest moments for the national team on larger stages overseas — that goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup and the second goal against Mexico in the Round of 16 in the 2002 World Cup — it felt right that Donovan’s final game in Red, White, and Blue was at home in an October friendly. It was at home in the United States that Donovan built his legacy: he served as a marquee player for MLS to build its foundation on, won five MLS Cups up to this point, but still excelled beyond all expectations for the national team when he faced the tougher international competition.

And it is in October when Donovan always shines, as he chases his sixth MLS Cup with his Los Angeles Galaxy — winning this year’s MLS Cup would be the Galaxy’s fifth title — to cap off his final MLS season. That would be the most appropriate storybook ending to Donovan’s career.

Take This Laughter With You

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Before the Bluth family came to life on Arrested Development, there was the Sycamore family in You Can’t Take It With You.

The Sycamore home in New York City is the domain where eccentricity reigns. The family patriarch, Martin Vanderhof (the legendary James Earl Jones), dodges the income tax and spends his time catching snakes and attending commencement ceremonies. One step below Martin in the family tree is his daughter, Penny Sycamore (Kristine Nielsen), a painter-turned-writer working on plays about war and sex, and her husband, Paul Sycamore (Mark Linn-Baker), who works as a fireworks manufacturer in the basement of the home. Their oldest daughter, Alice (the lovely Rose Byrne), is an office employee whose attendance at the family dinners is waning. Their youngest daughter, Essie (Annaleigh Ashford), is a confectioner (the candy is named “Love’s Dream,” which sounds suffocating in its own right)  and dreadful dancer who aspires to be a ballerina; her husband, Ed Carmichael (Will Brill), is a self-taught xylophone player and printer who delivers Essie’s candy to neighbors. Surrounding this family are Mr. DePinna (Patrick Kerr), Paul’s assistant and Penny’s model; Rheba (Crystal Dickinson), the family maid, and her boyfriend, Donald (Marc Damon Johnson); and Boris Kolenkhov (Reg Rogers), who drops by the Sycamore home to give Essie her ballet lessons and voice his opposition to the Russian Revolution.

Take a deep breath. Got all that? To quote the Arctic Monkeys, this house is a circus.

It is against this backdrop that the straight-laced Alice has to brave that terrifying right-of-passage into marriage: taking her fiancée, Tony Kirby (Fran Kranz), and his parents (Byron Jennings and Johanna Day) to the Sycamore Big Top and introducing the future in-laws to each other. The madness that ensues had me in tears of laughter up until the intermission ended the scene.

Although this Broadway revival of You Can’t Take It With You — a Pulitzer Prize winner that was first performed in 1936 — retains its original 1936 setting and humor, the jokes still land today because the story broaches topics universal to humanity: family, love, and the meaning of happiness. Alice can’t choose her family, but she chooses to love them in spite of all the quirks. To their credit, none of the missteps by the Sycamores can be attributed to selfishness or other underlying maliciousness — say, unlike the Bluth family. In their naivety and desperate attempts to do the right thing for Alice, the Sycamores compound their problems by engaging with the Kirbys beyond chatting, when they would have been better off trying to keep things simple.

It’s fun to watch James Earl Jones deadpan through most of the play, but his starring moment as Grandpa was his impassioned speech about his perspective on happiness, which he delivered like it was a sermon for both the characters in the home and for all of us in the audience. (I’m unsure that speech will resonate with the hypercompetitive spirit of New Yorkers, or the elderly people in the crowd who already lived through that experience, but it struck a chord with me.)

Byrne portrays the most level-headed character in the play, but she had to display the broadest range of emotions for any character, from the elation of being in love to the mortification of seeing the Sycamores and Kirbys interact with each other. Although the funny lines are evenly distributed among all the characters, Ashford and Brill steal their scenes with the exaggerated dance moves, gestures, and expressions that they have to make to portray the emotive Carmichaels. But like in A Raisin in the Sun, the strength in the casting lied in the chemistry between everyone on stage, which made it easier for me to see them as a genuine family creating an awkward courtship.

With multiple scenes using fireworks, a rotating stage, a crowded set with relics from a bygone era, and anywhere between two and 15 people on stage at any given moment, this was one of the more technical shows I’ve seen. Most importantly, though, You Can’t Take It With You is hilarious without being cynical from start to finish — I experienced laughter in its purest form again. What a refreshing way to take in a comedy.