What if an invisible friend was all a person needed to be happy and carefree? The play Harvey, with the help of an invisible “pooka,” explores how people interact, the ways people are concerned with how they are seen, and what it is to present oneself to others. Dating back to 1945, the Pulitzer Prize winner was originally written by American Playwright Mary Chase. Various adaptations include a movie featuring Jimmy Stewart and the play itself has seen many renewals in popularity over the years. The latest production of Lucille Ball Little Theater in Jamestown is slated to open November 15th.
A Thoughtful Comedy
Harvey begins with a series of events that lead to main character Elwood Dowd discovering he has a six-foot three and a-half inch friend, of course one only he can see. Dowd is an embarrassment to his family, particularly his social ladder climbing sister, but he doesn’t care how he is seen and simply acts as he is. At one point he remarks, “Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, ‘in this world Elwood, you must be – she always called me Elwood- you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.” Dowd’s sister, Veta Louise Simmons, played by Jeri Simori, sees his behavior as bizarre and takes him to a sanitarium. Things don’t go according to her plan. Elwood, played by Earl Rothfus, helps the audience “see” the unseen Harvey by interacting with this invisible character.
Director Richard Walter describes the play as a “nice, relaxing laugh.” It has an enjoyable pace and is a great show to bring people into the winter season. It’s the third play he’s directed for the company, beginning with 39 Steps last year, and he commented, “I’ve learned there’s such immense talent here.” He describes the cast as a mix of experienced and brand-new talent. Four of them he’s worked with previously, three have never performed before, and still another hasn’t performed in two decades, but all are owning their characters and ready to put on a great performance. He mentioned that comedies often take more time on rehearsal nights to get the pace and timing right for the jokes.
The show has a five to six-week rehearsal period culminating in two full weekends of performances. Richard says he uses the same team so they know what to expect and can produce a show in that shorter time frame. An audition panel of Adam Hughes, John Pickett, and Skip Anderson, “a theater vet” as Richard referred to him, help to select the actors. Brittany Grover is the sound person, Cathy Smith is Stage Manager, and John Pickett is assistant director. “He’s done dozens of shows and I love to have him involved, he’s very supportive” said Walter.
Richard brings his experience of running a theater company in the UK and writing plays, including “Least Resistance” put on by the Winged Ox Players. His preferred method is to trust the actors, offering a combination of guidance and freedom for the actor to find their own direction. “When you trust people to do the job, what they create is as much them as you, and it’s going to be better,” he explained.
Cast List and Performance Times
Earl Rothfus as Elwood Dowd; Jeri Simori as Veta Louise Simmons; Alex Connor as Myrtle May Simmons; Betsy Trusel as Mrs Ethel Chauvenet; Sheridan Smith as Dr. Anderson; Sharee Dominick as Ruth Callie; Lee John as Dr. Chumley; Marsha Pownall as Betty Chumley; Terrence Henderson as Dwayne Wilson; Russell Lee as Judge Omar Gaffney; Rycheigh Allan as Lofgren the cab driver; Patti Culliton as Ms. Johnson.
Performances are November 15, 16, 17 and 22, 23, 24. The 17th and 24th are matinees at 2pm. All other show times are 7:30. Visit www.lucilleballlittletheatre.org for more information