We all live during difficult times. It is a world that is festered with fear and violence. Social media that inflames unbridled passions.
Mary Chase’s “Harvey” at Smithfield Little Theatre can be an antidote for those feelings, if you let it.
Before the play began I was struck by the beautiful set by Robert Cox. Victorian era furniture set in a living room and a drawing room were some of the intricate pieces of the set. Then a surprise: the character of Elwood P Dowd was roaming the audience greeting everyone. He even did the general announcements. Say what you will about breaking the fourth wall but I thought it worked.
“Harvey” works when all characters eventually believe that there is a living breathing 6-foot rabbit in the room. Harvey is the catalyst for all the relationships and the change of heart that occurs for each character. Under Dan Steiger’s direction, I could see that that concept permeated through all aspects of the play.
Warren Johnson as Elwood P Dowd had me believing that there was a 6-foot rabbit named Harvey. He at first seemed delusional but then over the course of the play I perceived him as someone I wished I could be: a person who has a general openness and willingness to accommodate anyone based on the simple conviction that everyone wishes hm well.
Cheryl Ketcham is excellent as the fed up sister Veta. Elwood is an embarrassment because he keeps introducing the big rabbit to everyone, such as Aunt Ethel Chauvenet (Gigi Smith). The day finally arrives when Veta feels that she must institutionalize Elwood. Veta’s daughter Myrtle Mae is OK with institutionalizing Elwood because the unseen rabbit is preventing her from receiving any suitors that may call on her. Caity Brown brings a welcome perky impatience to her role.
More kudos to the set designer Robert Cox and to the Stage Manager Taraleigh Casteen for the quick and jaw dropping change to bring about Chumley’s Rest. It was incredible to see the large set pieces be moved in such an efficient and expeditious manner.
We then meet Elwood’s psychiatrists. James Shiels is the charming, earnest Dr. Lyman Sanderson, who is somewhat distracted by the pretty nurse Ruth Kelly as portrayed by AK Hall. They completely misread signals from both Elwood and Veta. Palmer Hurst as Duane Wilson is an earnest burly orderly who catches the eye and heart of Myrtle Mae.
Enter the boss, psychiatrist-in-chief Dr William Chumley, in the imperious form of Brian Cebrian. This is not a man to be trifled with. But before Chumley can deal with Dowd he must meet Harvey. The play then takes a very comical turn.
Others rounding out the excellent ensemble cast include: Patricia Fielding, who is perfect as the deliciously named Betty Chummy, and Bill Hanlon is solid as the unctuous Judge Gaffney. John Cannon is delightful as the cab driver EJ Lofgren.
Overall, Smithfield Little Theatre production of “Harvey” is a fun family oriented show. I therefore give “Harvey” a Big Thumbs Up! GO SEE IT!