Audiences have embraced the 2012 Season at Huron Country Playhouse and the positive reviews continue for the Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, HARVEY. A lighthearted comedy that skyrocketed in popularity with the 1950 film starring Jimmy Stewart, Harvey charms with undeniable warmth and wit at the intimate Playhouse II now through July 14th.
Theatregoers are invited to suspend their disbelief and enter the surreal world of Elwood P. Dowd, an affable man with a very strange best friend - a six-foot, three-and-one-half-inch invisible rabbit named Harvey.
Endlessly pleasant and mild mannered, Elwood becomes known around town for his “hare-brained” antics with his rabbit companion and their seemingly one-sided conversations shed light on the question of Elwood’s sanity. When he decides to introduce Harvey to guests at a party, Elwood’s society-obsessed sister, Veta Louise attempts to commit him to a sanitarium, inadvertently setting in motion a chain of events that causes everyone to question their reality.
“Hilarious and smart in every way, Harvey is a must-see that will resonate with audiences long after a truly delightful theatre experience,” says Alex Mustakas, Artistic Director of Drayton Entertainment. “This comic gem reveals its true brilliance through expertly interwoven mishaps, strongly layered characters and rich meaning that becomes fully visible as the play unfolds.”
Over the past two decades, Mustakas has directed over 100 productions and he returns to the helm to direct this masterful work that’s ultimately about acceptance and the beauty of life.
Mustakas has assembled a terrific cast for this production including TEd Simonett as Elwood P. Dowd. Simonett endows his character with sincerity and charisma, endearing him to audiences. His portrayal conveys the complexity of Elwood’s character as a gentle eccentric who shows genuine affection for Harvey and everyone around him. Simonett delivers a stunning performance that reveals Elwood’s tenderness, wise introspect and underlying vulnerability as he brings to life the dreamer that exists in each person Elwood encounters.
Victor A. Young delivers an exceptional performance as the esteemed psychiatrist William R. Chumley, head of the sanitarium. A difficult man who is feared by his subordinates, Young infuses his character with great sensitivity and humour, making it believable that Dr. Chumley eventually sees the magic that Harvey creates.
Michelle Fisk tackles the emotionally complex role of Elwood’s social climbing sister, Veta Louise, who’s driven to distraction by her brother’s obsession with Harvey. Unfortunately for her, when Veta Louise confesses that she, too, has seen Harvey, the play turns into a comic fantasy about dignity, imagination, and personal freedom.
With captivating skill, Jayme Armstrong shines brightly as the smart and efficient nurse, Ruth Kelly, who becomes taken with Elwood’s gentility, seeing it in sharp contrast with the lack of appreciation she gets from Dr. Sanderson.
David Snelgrove is spot on as Elwood’s examining psychiatrist Dr. Lyman Sanderson, whose thorough interrogations only lead to abrupt diagnoses, and his playful banter with Nurse Kelly adds some fun to the production.
Veta Louise’s daughter, Myrtle Mae Simmons is portrayed by Tova Smith. Constantly irritated by her Uncle Elwood, who insists on introducing Harvey to everyone who comes to the family home, Smith reveals a compelling character who attempts to attract any and all eligible men.
Keith Savage gives a marvelous performance as Judge Omar Gaffney, an old family friend and lawyer of the Dowd’s who assists in arranging Elwood’s commitment to the sanitarium.
Alan K. Sapp gives a hilarious portrayal of Duane Wilson, the undignified sanitarium orderly who lacks a bedside manner. Sapp is spot on as Wilson clumsily rustles up Elwood, sends Veta Louise to the hydro-therapy tub, and while later searching for Elwood, makes awkward attempts to seduce Myrtle Mae.
Jayne Lewis captures audience attention as Dr. Chumley’s wife, Betty, who is more concerned with socializing than with science, frazzled by her husband and both confused and intrigued by Elwood and his description of Harvey.
Completing this remarkable cast are Dan Payne who illuminates the character of E. J. Lofgren, the cab driver who pivotally triggers the assembled characters to reconsider whether of not it’s desirable to be a “perfectly normal person” and Lorraine Foreman who brings spirit to the role of socialite Ms. Ethel Chauvenet.