You Can't Take It with You

by George S. Kaufman, Moss Hart

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Act II Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 319

Act II opens a week later. Penny is talking to a drunken actress, Gay Wellington, who soon passes out on the couch. Tony Kirby and his parents are coming for dinner the next night, and Alice is getting things ready, consulting a list of things that need to be changed and put away. The rest of the family engage in their various amusements. Penny decides to complete a painting of Mr. De Pinna as a discus thrower which she began years ago, so he puts on a Roman costume and poses for her. Kolenkhov arrives to give Essie a dancing lesson, and she energetically pirouettes and leaps through the room while Grandpa throws darts.

At this moment, the Kirbys, in full evening dress, arrive. Tony has brought them a night early by mistake. The Kirbys are as shocked by the chaotic scene as the Sycamores are surprised to see the unexpected guests, but everyone tries to make the best of the situation. Penny gives hurried instructions about dinner to Rheba and they send Donald running to the market while everyone tries to sit down and have a conversation. But everything goes laughably awry as the drunken actress arises from the sofa, Kolenkhov seizes upon Mr. Kirby in an attempt to wrestle, and Penny starts a word association game which embarrasses the guests. Just when the Kirbys decide they can't stay for dinner after all and are about to leave, three F.B.I. agents show up and block the door. They have come to arrest Ed for the seemingly subversive circulars he has been printing. They search the house, and when they find the "munitions" (Paul's fireworks) in the basement they arrest everyone in the house, including the astonished Kirbys. And to top it all off, Mr. De Pinna has left his lit pipe downstairs with the fireworks, resulting in a large explosion at the close of the act.

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Act I Summary

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Act III Summary