HARVEYBy Mary Chase
Richardson Theatre Centre
Directed by Rachael Lindley
Technical Director – Richard Stephens Sr.
Stage Manager – Wyatt Moore
Sound Design – Rusty Harding
Lighting Design – Richard Stephens Sr.
Sound/Light Operator -- Wyatt Moore
Set Design – Owen Deverich, Lloyd Webb
Costumes – Rachel Lindley, Cast
Props – Rusty Harding, Rachel Lindley, Cast
Production Assistant – Amber LaBlanc
Artistic Director – Rachael Lindley
Executive Director – Lise Alexander
Shop Manager – Charles A. Alexander
Playbill/Flyers/Web/Enews – Becky Byrley
Myrtle Mae Simmons – Courtney Walsh
Veta Louise Simmons – Lise Alexander
Elwood P. Dowd – Dan Evers*
Miss Ethel Chauvenet – Jane Talbert
Ruth Kelly, R.N. – Debbie Deverich
Duane Wilson – Jonathan Osborne
Lyman Sanderson, M.D. – Lloyd Webb
William R. Chumley, M.D. – Rusty Harding
Betty Chumley – Sue Goodner
Judge Omar Gaffney – Budd Mahan
E.F. Lofgren – Patrick Vincent
* Member of Actor’s Equity Association
Reviewed Performance: 6/29/2018
Reviewed by Ann Saucer, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
I had enjoyed the movie version a few (ahem) decades ago. But, all I remembered from the movie was the iconic ending (which I’m not spoiling here) and that, unlike crazy people in real life, Jimmy Stewart can act crazy and still be a hunk. It was a real treat to experience a production of Harvey that has much more depth than my feeble memory allowed.
Elwood P. Dowd, played here with delightful earnestness by Dan Evers, has an invisible best friend, Harvey. Elwood explains that Harvey is a “pooka,” a spirit described in Celtic mythology. The play’s central mystery, which unfolds through clever and intermittently dropped clues, is what Harvey is, or more to the point, how crazy Elwood is.
Returning to her hometown after the death of their mother, Elwood’s much beleaguered sister Vita (Lise Alexander) is stuck navigating the difficult terrain between her daughter Myrtle Mae (Courtney Walsh) and Elwood, a bachelor of questionable sanity and sobriety who lived with their mother until her death.
The play opens in the middle of a party intended by Vita to advance the social standing of her daughter. The interplay between Alexander and Walsh is marvelous. These two thread the needle of playing a comically scheming and superficial mother-daughter duo, but without making their characters unlikeable. Walsh is perfect as the shallow niece bristling with hostility over her embarrassing Uncle. As her character is put through the metaphorical ringer, Alexander excels at the farcical and physical comedy demanded of her role. Look for her masterful use of black gloves. Other stand-outs include Jonathan Osborne, embodying a brutish psych ward handler with laudable realism, and the hilarious Sue Goodner, who, with perfect timing and expression, carries off the comic performance of a daffy wife.
Evers is the star here. His relentlessly cheerful character behaves in a frequently ludicrous fashion, and Evers manages to pull this off with seemingly effortless aplomb. And, if like me you are a Jimmy Stewart fan, then you will enjoy the periodic, hilarious Jimmy Stewart imitations that Evers cleverly weaves into his performance.
The play is from beginning to end a comedy, but the comic device is employed to poke holes at societal norms. While Vita and her daughter are phony social climbers, Elwood actually means statements that people in polite society are expected to utter insincerely, and one source of comedy is his habit of taking things literally. In this world, phonies are considered sane and sincerity is crazy.
Through the lens of comedy, this play presents mid-Twentieth Century attitudes toward office “romance” and, independently here, unwanted overtures. I found it interesting. For example, Elwood calls women whom he doesn’t know “dear” – but I don’t think it is offensive because he actually means it in a lovely, brotherly way. Evers is a joy to watch as he convinces us of Elwood’s radically up-beat cheeriness and sincere goodness.
Elwood is an impossibly well-meaning person. He explains that his mother told him that one could be “oh so smart or oh so pleasant,” and he chose pleasant. Elwood attests that he has a wonderful time wherever he is, with whomever he is with. That this is part of why Elwood is considered imbalanced is one of the playwright’s points.
The madcap plot requires a period setting to work (e.g., land lines rather than cell phones). The set is perfect down to the last detail: a lovely marble fireplace; colorfully painted walls and trim; porcelain figurines and other quaint bric-a-brac; gold-leaf books; and wall hangings that include a portrait of Mother, a fan, and an antique map. The period costumes, particularly in the opening party scene, are a visual feast. The women are well-adorned with jewels, hats, feathers, beading and/or fur. The lightening is effective in maintaining scene changes and spotlighting a whimsical painting.
This production earned frequent laughs from an audience enjoying themselves, and the play surprised me with its well-honed commentary on “polite” society. The star, Evers, adroitly delivers a believable performance of an unusual character. I recommend this production to anyone who enjoys comedy.
Richardson Theatre Centre
June 29 – July 15, 2018
Richardson Theatre Centre
518 W. Arapaho Road, Suite 113
Richardson, TX 75080
For information and Tickets call 972 699-1130 or richardsontheatrecentre.net.