YOU CAN TAKE IT WITH YOU
By William Sokolin
I was spending too much time in theHamptons. I decided I needed a trip to the city for
some culture. A night at the theatre was just the thing.
I was in a bad mood. I had a nap before dinner. I am not used to a nap before dinner.
I like to sleep in the theatre. Generally I zonk out after the first two words are spoken. I
wake up for the second act and can’t wait to hit the exit. Got to get tomorrow’s New
YorkTimes. Taxi home, pour aCognac, read and try to zonk out again. Usually this
gets me up by4AMwhen I am in a total somnolent trance.
Back to the catnap, a little dinner, a glass or four of wine and off to the theatre. First I
vent total wrath at poor Gloria. Why are there papers everywhere? Why are bills being
trashed? Why can’t you order your life like I don’t mine? WHY? WHY? WHY? I am
perfect, Why can’t you be the same? She Mona Lisas me. In total silence we arrive at
The seats are good. I like to sit on or near the stage so I can see and hear. Therefore, I
cannot sit more than three rows back. This is my excuse for non-attendance. I rarely get
the seat I desire.
Robards,Coco, Mundy, Dewhurst. The magic begins. Hey, maybe it doesn’t. A nice,
comfy middle-class home. I should live so well. Contrived chaos. Middling epigrams,
silliness 1930s style. Ho hum, and the end of act one.
Something starts to stir in the second act. The pot begins its boil. Slowly, the
contrivance turns to Andy Hardy reality. Andy Hardy was real, you know. Judge Stone
and Judy Garland are conjured. The potion begins its lovely climb. Elevation has
started. We begin to move, to feel, to sense that the silliness is real. Hello James Joyce,
hi Dostoyevsky, is that E. O’Neill I hear in the background? We are into the drama of
life in that middle-class room that is now starting to light up. A little dab of rowdiness,
a bit of fear, then safe at home and, by God, the pot is boiling as act two ends.
Act three starts with a letdown. The lovers part, but Grandpa is mixing the wisdom.
Mind you, not great soliloquys, not even damn good common sense, but the beat of
greatness is on Robards. His very inner sense of time and timing begin to work black,
blue and golden magic. The words are not too simple; they are wrong, but the meter of
centuries begins to play. We enter the stage. If you are in the last row in the balcony,
you enter the stage. You are now a participant. The game is life, the game is on. Light
‘em up! Your eyes tear, you can hold back the tears only with great effort. You are, and
have been, touched for ten minutes that seem like 33 seconds. You have entered the great
It ends, they dance, you applaud. You want to stay, to touch, to be a part of that simple,
incorrect two hours. It simply does not work. It is the greatest moment of my life. For
Originally writtenMay 15, 1983
Submitted to Dan’s Papers May 2012
From James Coco datedMay 20, 1983
I think I love you, Mr. Sokolin
From Craig Claiborne datedJune 10, 1983
I, too, was thunderstruck to know that no mention was made of You Can’t Take it With You, and am incredibly pleased that you sent me that note from James Coco. I saw the preview atKennedyCenterin Washington and I, too, choked up in the nicest way possible. I had been invited by Kitty Carlisle which is beside the point.