All hail Harvey and what he stands for. All hail all 6 foot 3 and a half inches of his white fuzzy frame that is invisible to the naked eye but can be seen by those who believe. All hail Elwood P. Dowd (Jim Parsons) and his simple yet effective, down-played, amusing performance in the revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy HARVEY at Studio 54, a Roundabout Theatre Company production in association with Don Gregory.
All hail his manners and his being kind and pleasant and having hope for the human race and Mary Chase who concocted this fantasy circa 1944 with a timeless message that emerges from its otherwise farcical plot.
All hail Jessica Hecht as his sister Veta Louise Simmons who is trying to get her daughter Myrtle Mae (Tracee Chimo) a beau and her brother inducted into the local loony bin having some truly brilliant and hysterical moments with her explanation of how her brother Elwood (Straight man Parsons to Hecht’s insanely comic character) should be committed to Chumley’s Rest as he and his rabbit friend Harvey are interfering with her living a normal life. The result is that she is the one who appears nuts and is incarcerated. Eccentricity runs in the family.
What is normal? We wonder by plays end and that is a very good thing. Sometimes we all need a “pooka” in our lives. An imaginary, mischievous creature/friend to help us through the day. A hi-ball or a beer (Dowd we are told repeatedly likes to drink but we never see him imbibe) is necessary as long as it’s done in moderation – whatever it takes to make you happy and kind and polite and functional in this most difficult world we live in.
The mild mannered Dowd makes friends easily even with those trying to commit him. He brings roses to Ruth Kelly R.N. (Holley Fain) who is not being treated very nicely by Dr. Sanderson (Morgan Spector) – assistant to Dr. Chumley (Charles Kimbrough) whose wife Betty (a zany Carol Kane) he also befriends.
But it is Harvey who is front and center and sometimes seen and sometimes not. Is he a figment of Dowd’s imagination or does he really exist? Mary Chase is very clever in how she has all the characters deal with this conundrum resulting in a comedy of errors and lots of laughs.
But the play itself has its ups and downs despite the strong cast and overall fine direction by Scott Ellis who goes a bit too far with some playful touching back and forth that becomes irritating.
David Rockwell has provided two wonderful homes for Harvey: the library where Dowd and his sister and niece live and Chumley’s Rest where they want him to live. Harvey grows on you. What seems so silly becomes moving and meaningful in this one extremely eventful day in the lives of Elwood P. Dowd and his best friend Harvey.
www.roundabouttheatre.org Photo: Joan Marcus
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