NEW ULM - When you look at some of the props that will be on stage for New Ulm High School's upcoming production of the play "You Can't Take It With You," you can tell that you won't be dealing with just your average cast of characters.
In the corner of the stage is an aquarium... filled with snakes. Also to be found are a jackalope prominently mounted on the wall, a xylophone in the living room and a dart board on the back of a main door.
"It is a story of a family that's not quite in step with the rest of the world," director Sheldon Rieke said. "One of the daughters gets out into the real world and falls in love, but she realizes her family and this young boy's world are very different. She's right, and when the two families meet, it becomes very obvious."
The play - written by George S. Kaufmann in the late 1930s - is one that was a favorite of Rieke before he chose to use it for NUHS' fall production.
"I call it a classic Broadway show," Rieke said. "It was originally done in 1937 and won a Pulitzer."
The set depicts the house of Martin "Grandpa" Vanderhof, which is located near Columbia University in New York City. The play is set in 1937, with the costumes and hairstyles depicting the era.
Vanderhof lives in the house with a number of family members, including his daughters, sons-in-law and granddaughters. There are also a number of other characters that are either residents of the house or visitors.
"There's a Russian dance teacher, a grand duchess; there's De Pinna, who just showed up one day and stayed for eight years," Rieke said. "There's extended family around them, too. There's the servant, and her friend - they're treated more like family. It's not your normal family."
The entire family enjoys a somewhat isolated lifestyle. Examples of some of the things that go on in the house include one of Vanderhof's son-in-laws, Paul, manufacturing fireworks in the basement, and one of Vanderhof's two granddaughters, Essie, intently pursuing dance instruction, despite the fact that she is a terrible dancer.
"The head of the family, Grandpa - at one point he just decided he didn't want to be in business anymore - what was the point?," Rieke said. "As he says, 'Why do six hours of stuff I don't want to do to do one hour of stuff I want to do?' He's found a way to make it work and enjoy life, and that philosophy has spread to his daughters, their husbands and people who just show up at the door."
The plot is centered around the love story of Alice - Vanderhof's other granddaughter - and Tony Kirby. Alice is the lone member of the household that has managed to break free from the isolation of the rest of the household, where she met Tony, who grew up in very different circumstances.
After realizing that she and Tony are both very much in love with each other, Alice decides that she will have to undergo the embarrassing task of introducing Tony - and Tony's parents - to her family. When the two very different families meet, it is, needless to say, that it is a very interesting affair.
Adding to the drama is the persecution of Vanderhof by authorities due to years of tax evasion, and other legal matters that are brought to light during the play.
Although the play on the surface is a comedy, Rieke mentioned that many other themes come into play.
"It's about accepting people the way they are, in a lot of ways, and accepting yourself, too," Rieke said. "Not trying to live up to somebody else's image of what's normal or the right thing to do. It's very funny, but very touching, too. Those are all part of why I chose it, because for the kids it offers them a chance to really do some acting. There's more to it than just a comedy."
The cast is filled with veteran performers, with the majority of the 19 cast members coming from the junior and senior classes.
"They're a very talented group of kids," Rieke said. "They're very determined - that was one of the reasons I knew they could handle this kind of show."
The play will open on Friday, Nov. 16 with a 7 p.m. performance. The two other performances will be Saturday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. at the DAC, 15 N. State.
Tickets will be $7 for adults and $5 for students and seniors, with all tickets to be sold at the door.
If you plan on going, be prepared for plenty of laughs, but also don't be surprised if you find some tears welling up in your eyes.
"Everybody always talks about how funny it is, and it is a funny show, but it has some really touching moments, too," Rieke said. "I think that gets forgotten a lot of times."