An innocent abroad
by Michael Dresdner
|L to R: Ana Bury as nurse Ruth and Rebecca McCarthy as Veta|
Originally debuted in 1944, Harvey is a funny, edifying play that relies on not one, but two dei ex machina that together deliver its simple message. First there’s Dr. Chumley’s almost magical Formula 977 that given once, instantly cures one of both drink and delusion. Next comes a loquacious cab driver who deftly delivers the two-pronged moral of this sweet story; that the devil we know is better than the devil we don’t, and that carefree and pleasant trumps realistic and shrewd.
|Kerry Bringman as Elwood P. Dowd|
Elwood P. Dowd, very adroitly played by Kerry Bringman, is a wealthy, genial, middle-aged man who spends his time, mostly in bars, talking to folks and making friends while accompanied by an invisible (to others) six-foot magical rabbit named Harvey. Because of Harvey, Dowd’s society-conscious sister Veta (Rebecca McCarthy), abetted by her daughter Myrtle Mae (Amanda Welch) tries to get him committed in a mental hospital. A series of miscommunications has both Veta and Dowd held and released in succession. Confusion ensues, and before long the head of the hospital, Dr. Chumley (Ben Stahl) is chasing both Dowd and Harvey in and out of bars in an attempt to get Dowd locked up, and an annoyed Veta not to sue the hospital.
The confusion is abetted by other intervening characters, all with their own separate issues. Ruth (Ana Bury), the sexy but efficient nurse, secretly loves Dr. Sanderson (Tony Onorati), the second in command at the institution. Both actors did a fine job in their supporting roles. The same is true for Dr. Chumley’s wife Betty (Melissa Isaksen) and Dowd’s Aunt Ethel (Leigh Duncan), who both proved that even a very minor part can be very well executed.
Rounding out the lunacy is an over-eager hospital orderly (Chase Whitener), the household maid (Mandy Stutesman), a judge and lawyer to the Dowd family (Jonathan Mannella), and the aforementioned cab driver (Robert McRill.)
Eventually, the confusion subsides, Elwood gets a chance to expound on his life principles, and he and Harvey manage to win over everyone. They even make love bloom among both the pining and the unlikely.
No set designer or costume designer was called out in the program, but the set smoothly converted back and forth from a hospital reception area to the library of Elwood’s home, albeit one devoid of books. Costumes were certainly adequate, though they failed to convey any particular time period. Also missing from the program were directors’ notes and any announcements of their upcoming shows.
I suppose the sad truth about this production is that it boasts more potential than delivery. That may be partly from co-directors Paul Hill and Katherine Mahoney leaning toward what I’d call an over-the-top style of presentation. However, the grandest obstacle for all involved was the space itself, a cavernous room with poor sight lines and acoustics that can only be called truly abysmal. The result was that nuance was lost and actors’ words were often very hard to understand, either eaten up or rendered cacophonous by the hall.
My bet is that with some refinement and a better space, this group, which has heretofore kept itself completely off the theatre community radar, will have a fair shot at being a critical part of the South Sound’s fine thespian tradition. In the meantime, they need our support in the form of audience attendance, and a lovely play like Harvey is a good venue for us to give it.
March 8 to 23, 2013
Spotlight Players Theatre Troupe