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Thursday, 28 June 2012 07:26

Broadway Review: HARVEY

Written by
Charles Kimbrough, Jessica Hecht and Jim Parsons (l-r) in HARVEY Charles Kimbrough, Jessica Hecht and Jim Parsons (l-r) in HARVEY Photo: Joan Marcus

The revival of the Pulitzer Prize winning comedy Harvey by Mary Chase is a lovely way to welcome in the 2012-13 Broadway season.  The play boasts a superb cast led by the marvelously unassuming and adorable Jim Parsons (television's "Big Bang Theory",) Jessica Hecht, and Charles Kimbrough

Parsons is Elwood P. Dowd, a man whose best friend is a 6' 3½" rabbit named Harvey that only he can see.  He’s a pooka actually,  “a fairy spirit in animal form, always very large” according to the script.  Elwood makes it a point of introducing Harvey to everyone he meets.

Elwood’s sister, Veta, played to divine perfection by Ms. Hecht, and her daughter, played by Tracee Chimo are staying with Elwood in his lovely Victorian home (an applause-inducing set by David Rockwell).  Both mother and daughter are social climbers who are mortified by Elwood's behavior and the effect that it has on their ability to gain a leg up the ladder of high society.  

Veta attempts to have Elwood committed to an asylum, “Chumley’s Rest.”  However, after admitting to occasionally having seen Harvey herself, she gets committed while Elwood wanders off looking for the illusory hare.  Charles Kimbrough is Dr. William Chumley, the doctor who runs the asylum.  After discovering that Elwood has wandered off, a chase ensues to capture him.  All of this is lost on the unflappable chap as he returns to the asylum looking for Harvey.  

The doctor is about to give him an injection of a drug that will no longer let his mind conjure up his imaginary friend.  The cab driver that brought them to the asylum, and who has been patiently waiting downstairs for his fare, tells of the patients he's brought back into town after treatment with this drug.  He says after the treatment they are “gonna be a perfectly normal human being and you know what bastards they are!”

Veta decides to not give Elwood the shot and all’s well that ends well.  Veta even invites Harvey along at the end as they all go back to the Victorian mansion to live happily ever after.   

Parsons is particularly adept at the physicality of interacting with an imaginary rabbit; the way he steps out of the way to let Harvey by (and admonishes others to) and the way his eyes follow Harvey, you know Parsons sees this rabbit.

Ms. Hecht is particularly funny in her role as Elwood’s confused sister, Veta.  Watching her break down at the top of act two when she has just returned from the asylum, after being manhandled and having had her clothes ripped off of her by an orderly (Rich Sommer), she had the audience in stitches.

Nobody does “buttoned up” and “up tight” better than Mr. Kimbrough.  If you ever watched “Murphy Browne” back in the late eighties and much of the nineties, you will recognize him as the fuss-pot news anchor, Jim Dial.  Kimbrough is especially funny when he loses that control and becomes completely flummoxed, having his own breakdown.  He begins to see Harvey and believes he is being chased by him.  

Everyone’s favorite loon, Carol Kane makes an all-too-brief appearance as Dr. Chumley's wife, Betty.  She only has one scene but makes the most of it as she is taken in by Elwood's charms.  Veteran actor Larry Bryggman is Judge Omar Gaffney, Mr. Dowd’s legal representative.  

Considering that Harvey was written in 1944, the play never feels dated.  Director Scott Ellis gives us a fresh-eyed look at this comic chestnut.  While Harvey isn’t particularly deep, this first-class production will give you a hearty laugh and make you wish you had your own pooka.

View entire production credits on IBDB.com.

Additional Info

  • Theatre: Studio 54
  • Theatre Address: 254 West 54th St. New York, NY 10019
  • Show Style: Play
  • Previews:: May 18, 2012
  • Opening Night: June 14, 2012
  • Closing: August 4,2012
Last modified on Thursday, 28 June 2012 09:40