The only downside to the unconditional upper called “You Can’t Take It With You,” which wafted open last night at the Longacre Theater, is that it may strain previously underused muscles around your mouth. That can happen when you spend two-and-a-half hours grinning like an idiot.
A lot of shows can make you laugh. What’s rare is a play that makes you beam from curtain to curtain. Such is the effect of Scott Ellis’s felicitous revival of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s 1936 comedy about one improbably happy family during the Great Depression, which stars a haloed James Earl Jones as the wise old leader of the clan.
This is, frankly, surprising news to me. Though it won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, the very mention of “You Can’t Take It With You” is known to elicit shivers of revulsion among people who saw or appeared in high school productions.