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HARVEY

By Mary Chase

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  • Dates: February 9 – 18, 2018
  • Times: Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM / Sundays at 2 PM
  • Ticket Prices: $25 for VIP / $19 for General Seating (Student & Senior Discounts Available)

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HARVEY Hops to Cheney Hall in February

Little Theatre of Manchester’s 58th Season Kicks Off

Elwood P. Dowd has only one character flaw: an unwavering friendship with a six-foot-tall, invisible rabbit named Harvey. The Pulitzer Prize-winning HARVEY is on stage at the Little Theatre of Manchester February 2 through 18.

In this a time-honored, classic comedy, Elwood is inseparable from his best friend and confidant, Harvey. In order to save the family’s reputation, Elwood’s sister Veta takes him to see a psychiatrist.  But when the doctor mistakenly commits anxiety-ridden Veta instead of her brother, it sets off a hilarious whirlwind of confusion and chaos as everyone tries to catch a man and his invisible rabbit.

HARVEY is directed by LTM director and actor Shane William Kegler whose previous LTM credits include Twelfth Night and last season’s The 39 Steps. He was last seen on the Cheney Hall stage in last season’s Sons of the Prophet. The cast features Mitch Hess of Vernon as Elwood P. Dowd and Virginia Wolf of Farmington as Veta Louise Simmons, Elwood’s sister.

HARVEY premiered on Broadway in 1944, winning writer Mary Chase the Pulitzer Prize for Drama the following year. Two movies were made, in 1950 and 1972, with James Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd, the delightful man whose best friend is an imaginary rabbit. The play was on Broadway with Stewart, later with Art Carney, and in 2012 with Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory. It was revived in 2015 in London’s West End.

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CAST of CHARACTERS

  • Myrtle Mae Simmons:  Mara Pelto
  • Veta Louise Simmons:  Virginia Wolf
  • Elwood P. Dowd:  Mitch Hess
  • Mrs. Ethel Chauvenet:  Sunny Kirkham
  • Ruth Kelly, R.N.:  Lauren Casola
  • Duane Wilson:  Woody
  • Lyman Sanderson, M.D.:  Oliver Kochol
  • William R. Chumley, M.D.:  Mark O’Donnell
  • Betty Chumley:  Rayah Martin
  • Judge Omar Gaffney:  David Regan
  • E.J. Lofren: David Barbour
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By David Garnes

A Pulitzer Prize-Winning Play & Failed Musical

Harvey is a 1944 play by the American playwright Mary Chase, who received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the work (beating, among others, Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie). Though she never replicated the success of Harvey, a successful film adaptation in 1950, for which Chase co-wrote the screenplay, further enhanced her fame and literary reputation.

Harvey opened on Broadway during World War II on November 1, 1944, at the 48th Street Theatre, long demolished. It ran over four years, closing after 1,775 performances, one of the longest runs ever for a non-musical play. The original production was directed by Antoinette Perry (for whom the Tony awards were named a few years later). Frank Fay, a star of vaudeville making a triumphant comeback, played Elwood P. Dowd and Josephine Hull was Elwood’s sister, Veta. Elwood was subsequently played during this run and in a national tour by Joe E. Brown.

A well-received Broadway revival played during 1970 and starred James Stewart and Helen Hayes. The Roundabout Theatre Company revival opened at Studio 54 in 2012 to generally good reviews, especially for Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”) as Elwood.

The play was adapted in 1981 as Say Hello to Harvey, a stage musical by Leslie Bricusse (composer of Oliver! and other shows). Scheduled to play in Washington DC and then move on to the Great White Way, it died a pre-Broadway death in Toronto. Donald O’Connor was to have made his Broadway debut in this ill-fated venture.

Harvey on the Big and Small Screens

In other incarnations, Harvey was much earlier adapted into a successful film in 1950 with James Stewart as Elwood and Josephine Hull repeating her Broadway role as Veta. Both were nominated for Oscars. Hull won hers as Supporting Actress; Stewart lost to Jose Ferrer for Cyrano de Bergerac.

Several US television versions have been made. The first, in 1958 sported a cast that reads like a Who’s Who of early TV:  Art CarneyMarion LorneElizabeth MontgomeryLarry BlydenFred GwynneCharlotte Rae, and Jack Weston. In the second adaptation, James Stewart reprised his 1950 screen role in 1972, playing opposite Madeline Kahn.

And in 2009 Steven Spielberg announced plans for a new screen adaptation of the play. The project was canned, partly due to his inability to find an actor willing and able to play Elwood Dowd. (Perhaps the memory of Jimmy Stewart cast too long a long shadow?)

A Farce with a Heart

The play, now 74 years old, continues to turn up regularly in community theaters. On one level a laugh-out-loud farcical comedy, Harvey also contains truths and statements about our need for human (and otherwise) connections and the conflict between conformity and living as one wishes.

A critic wrote of the Jim Parsons revival: “Harvey prefigures the wave of countercultural plays movies in the 1960s that would turn truth-telling kooks into an overused conceit, but Chase got there first, and she doesn’t push the philosophizing down our throats. And Mr. Parsons’s deft, light-fingered performance makes the saintliness go down easy; there is real charm in Elwood’s little morsels of homespun wisdom when they are batted across the footlights with such guileless simplicity.”

Harvey the Pooka

Harvey the imaginary rabbit is described in the play as a “pooka” (from the “puca” of Celtic folklore). The word in Irish means “spirit or ghost” and refers to spiritual shape changers who could assume the appearance (to some humans) of horses, goats, and rabbits, sometimes helping, sometimes hindering.

Though a masterful farce like Harvey requires of the playgoer a certain “temporary suspension of disbelief,” we leave the theater with perhaps a new appreciation of those who, like Henry David Thoreau, march to a different drummer.

And let’s not forget the words of Emily Dickinson, who knew a thing or two about feeling different:  “Much madness is divinest Sense.”

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The DOUBLE WOOD / $7 @ the Bar

On Friday and Saturday nights, enjoy a PLAYFUL COCKTAIL mixed by our friends at Hartford Flavor Company! Named in honor of Harvey’s Elwood, the Double Wood has robust, woody definition–making it great for the winter–but its vanilla undertones give it a complex sweetness.

The Double Wood
1.5 oz Wild Moon Liqueurs Birch
1.5 oz Irish Whiskey
1.5 oz Birch Beer
.25 oz Orange Juice

“The nose is greeted first by the heady aroma of a root beer float: full, creamy, and sweet, followed by images of springtime New England woods full of damp earth and fresh hints of spring.  Classic birch smoothness hits the tongue with a sweetness that is mellowed by a touch of spice.  Fiery amber soothes the throat in a manner reminiscent of a scotch stripped of its burn yet still retaining a touch of peat and a hint of vanilla.  The full-bodied, rich taste ends with a sassafrass finish.”

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