Lowry’s Spotlight Theater, closing after 20 years, goes out with a laugh — The Know

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Lowry’s Spotlight Theater, closing after 20 years, goes out with a laugh — The Know

Dan Connell as Martin Vanderhof in “You Can’t Take It With You,” a Spotlight Theater performance at the John Hand Theater in Lowry. (Soular Radiant Photography, provided by Spotlight Theater)

Why not laugh as we lament the demise of a longtime local theater company?

Lowry’s Spotlight Theater will close this month after 20 years, 75 shows, and more than 750 performances for some 45,000 theater-goers. It goes out on a high note with a fun production of the classic screwball comedy “You Can’t Take It With You,” ably directed by Bernie Cardell.

The final show is the quintessential Spotlight offering: “feel-good” theater that won’t tax the nerves. Running through Sept. 29 at the John Hand Theater, the play makes a case for maximizing fun while you can.

The George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart creation won the Pulitzer Prize in 1936 and has aged as well as any goofy romp of the American theater. The New York City-based impending merger of two disparate families — the wildly eccentric Vanderhof-Sycamore-Carmichael crew and the uptight Kirby clan —  never gets old. Well, it gets dated (with talk of former Russian royalty now waitressing at Childs, for instance) but it never gets old.

Alice Sycamore (Carolyn Lohr) is about to introduce her family of artistic free-thinkers to the repressed and very wealthy family of her fiancé Tony Kirby (Brandon Paliver). Distinguishing themselves amid the chaos are Dan Connell as sage grandpa Martin Vanderhof; Katie Mangett as Martin’s daughter, Penny Sycamore, a dedicated but terrible painter and playwright; Charlie Wingerter as Penny’s husband, Paul, who tinkers with fireworks in the basement; Gracen Porreca, zooming through physical shtick as household helper Donald; Luke Rahmsdorff-Terry as Ed Carmichael, the chime-playing son-in-law; Kelly Alayne Dwyer as granddaughter Essie, the awful dancer who dreams of being a ballerina; Eddie Schumacher as fireworks aficionado Mr. DePinna; Mari Geasair as Russian ballet instructor Kolenkhov, and Kerry Beebe as drunken, singing actress Gay Wellington. And more.

The zany antics live on while Spotlight calls it quits. Cardell, Spotlight’s artistic director, intends to focus his after-hours energies on Vintage Theatre, where he holds the same title. At the same time, he said, the Spotlight board was going through changes that made this feel like the right time to stop.

“Interestingly enough, no part of this decision was financial,” Cardell said via email. “Helen Hand (director of Colorado Free University, which houses the John Hand Theatre) has worked very hard to keep our rents low, and our audiences have increased by 40 percent over the last four years.”

Brandon Palmer as Tony Kirby and Carolyn Lohr as Alice Sycamore in “You Can’t Take It With You,” a Spotlight Theater performance at the John Hand Theater in Lowry. (Soular Radiant Photography, provided by Spotlight Theater)

That’s an achievement few local companies can boast.

Cardell gets the last word: “I know a lot of people are sad that we are closing, and we are too, of course, but I know that live theatre in Lowry will still be going strong with other companies coming into the John Hand Theatre,” like Germinal, which will start presenting there in January.

RIP Spotlight — and long live local theater.


YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU

*** (three stars)

By George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. Directed by Bernie Cardell. With Katie Mangett, Kelly Alayne Dwyer, Meghan Ralph, Charlie Wingerter, Eddie Schumacher, Luke Rahmsdorff-Terry, Gracen Porreca, Dan Connell, Carolyn Lohr, Brandon Palmer, Mari Geasair, John W.B. Greene, Molly Turner, Jan Cleveland. Through Sept. 29 at the John Hand Theater, 7653 E. 1st Place, Denver. Tickets at 720-530-4596.

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