by: Sandi Durell
If you happen to be passing 18th Street and 3rd Avenue (Denver, Co.), you may see a big tall 6 ft. 3-1/2 inch rabbit leaning on a lamp post. Didn’t see him? That’s because he’s bar-hopping with his buddy Elwood P. Dowd. Yes, that Dowd with all the money who lives in a mansion with his sister Veta and niece Myrtle Mae.
The Roundabout Theatre’s current production at Studio 54 houses the most endearing of characters, “Harvey,” made famous by Jimmy Stewart in Mary Chase’s 1944 Pulitzer prize winning play.The Roundabout Theatre’s current production at Studio 54 houses the most endearing of characters, “Harvey,” made famous by Jimmy Stewart in Mary Chase’s 1944 Pulitzer prize winning play.
But Dowd has a little problem, no, actually it’s a big 6 ½ foot problem; he hangs out with a Pooka (spirit) rabbit named Harvey. Sister Veta Simmons (Jessica Hecht), is busy at social climbing and embarrassed especially for her young daughter Myrtle Mae (Tracee Chimo), eager to get rid of her Uncle Elwood, and who is of marriageable age, as Veta tells Myrtle “you’ve go so much to offer, I don’t care what they say!” You’ll see a winning comedy performance by Hecht as she herself is beginning to lose it, watching Elwood’s constant chatter and interplay with Harvey, to the degree that she finally calls her lawyer, the confused Judge Omar Gaffney (Larry Bryggman) to make arrangements to have Elwood committed.
At Chumley’s Rest, a sanitorium just outside the City, as Elwood waits outside in the car, Veta tries to explain her brother’s behavior to newbie shrink Dr. Sanderson (Morgan Spector) and appealing Nurse Kelly (Holly Fain), dropping a clue that she occasionally has seen Harvey herself. All mayhem breaks loose as they mistakenly believe it is she who is having hallucinations and immediately make arrangements to have her committed calling the gruff orderly, Duane Wilson (Mad Men’s Rich Sommer), who whisks her away. Elwood saunters in wondering where Veta went, using his unpretentious charm on Sanderson and Kelly, presenting his card and asking them to join him for a drink, as he makes little aside gestures to his buddy Harvey (which they don’t see) and goes about his business.
Dr. Chumley finally comes out of his office to witness the comings and goings and decides to take this case over himself. Chumley is played by an agreeable Charles Kimbrough, who eventually begins to realize just what having a “Harvey” around could do for his life. Wife Betty Chumley, (the very amusing Carol Kane), has one hysterical scene with Elwood where he nearly charms the pants off her. There’s also an outstanding performance by Angela Paton as Ethel Chauvenet, the Aunt, who is comically aghast in the opening scene discovering Elwood’s hairy friend. Well, it is a funny farm of treats!
Director Scott Ellis has impressively brought out the best in this ace cast of players as David Rockwell’s efficiently beautiful revolving sets and scenery change from the mansion-style library to the reception area of Chumley’s Rest aided by Kenneth Posner’s perfect lighting effects and Jane Greenwood’s effectually styled period costumes.
“Harvey” is the ideal antidote for much of what can be dismal reality. Try not to miss the fun and laughter at Studio 54 on West 54th Street thru August 5th.
2 hours 15 minutes w/intermission (212)719-1300 or online at www.roundabouttheatre.org.