Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Harvey"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents Copyright 2009 Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at 2nd Story Theater this summer is "Harvey", the 1945 Pulitzer Prize winning play about Elwood P. Dowd (Jimmy Stewart in the 1950 movie) who has been driving his sister and niece crazy by introducing everyone he meets to his best friend, Harvey, a six and 1/2 foot tall Pooka who can only be seen by Elwood.(A pooka is a mythical Celtic being, a mischievous fairy that takes the form of an animal and it can talk. It enjoys confusing humans but is considered to be benevolent.) Veta, his sister decides to have him committed to a sanitarium to spare her daughter, Myrtle Mae and their family from further embarrassment. Problems arise when Veta explains to the doctors after living with Elwood's hallucination,it has caused her to see Harvey as well. "Harvey" opened on Broadway in 1944 and ran for four and a half years at the 48th Street Theatre. It played for 1,755 performances, making it one of the longest running shows in Broadway history. Director Ed Shea captures the magical quality needed for this show with his talented cast. He weaves a spell that entrances the audience all night long with laughter and merriment.

Ed blocks this show very well using the theatre beautifully and keeping his cast in constant motion at a running time of 100 minutes and making it into a two act show. He supplies his cast with many comical moments and physical humor ( Sanderson and Kelly have a funny scene where he falls to the floor after Veta escapes and Kelly falls to her knees in horror. They also have a hilarious kissing scene.) Ed keeps the show set in the spring of 1944 with the set by Trevor Elliot and costumes by Ron Cesario reflecting this. The set is the same playing area, the Dowd mansion and the reception room of Chumley's rest, marked by four doorways and a center playing area with a carpet in the middle. The Operation manager Max Ponticelli keeps things moving smoothly all night long. Wayne Kneeland plays Elwood excellently especially in his huge monologue. He endears himself to the audience, capturing their hearts and gives a winning portrayal of the character. Wayne is very funny as the laid back, tippler with his invisible rabbit and obtains many laughs with his antics especially when he gives out his business cards. Sharon Charpentier who I last reviewed in "Night Must Fall" for The Players in 2005, is Veta Louise Simmons, the ultimate society matron who is very offended by her seemingly crazy brother until she realizes Harvey is her friend, too. She delivers a comic performance while doing so.

The rest of this 12 member cast include Erin Olson as Veta's bratty and spoiled daughter, Myrtle Mae who is anxious to get rid of her uncle so she can win a beau. She handles this petulant role with ease. Erin played Mrs. Keller last year in "The Miracle Worker" and will be playing Isabelle Grossman in "Crossing Delancey" at the Newport Playhouse in October. (Erin always does a topnotch job having reviewed her in numerous shows at URI) Tom O'Donnell plays the pompous Doctor Chumley who wants Harvey for himself and gets his comeuppance from Elwood and Harvey while Joan Dillenback is endearing as his wife, Betty while Stephen Palmer is the blustery Judge Gaffney. (I haven't seen Stephen since we were in "A Clockwork Orange" back in 1988.) Jay Bragan and Rae Mancini play Dr. Sanderson and Nurse Kelly, the love interest in the show, handling their hate/love relationship beautifully, stealing many a scene with their physical humor. The biggest scene stealer is Ben Gracia as Duane Wilson, Chumley's attendant who captures runaway patients and puts them into the hydro tub. He has some of the funniest lines in the show, garnering him many laughs. (Ben also handles dramatic roles, having reviewed him as Shylock in "Merchant of Venice" at URI) Joan Batting garners many laughs as Aunt Ethel who is horrified by Elwood's strange behavior while Vince Petronio plays the cab driver, EJ Lofgren who opens Veta's eyes about making Elwood a normal person again because normal people can be sons of bitches. ( I have been involved with "Harvey", three times as director in 1987, as Dr. Chumley in 1995 and as Duane Wilson in 2003.) So for a trip back to the 1940's and a visit with an invisible rabbit, be sure to catch "Harvey" at 2nd Story Theater before Harvey hops out of town.

"Harvey" (12 August - 6 September)
28 Market Street, WARREN RI
1 (401) 247-4200

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide