Saturday, October 4, 2014

Millbrook: "Harvey"

Guest Reviewer: Layne Holley, River Region theatre artist.

The Millbrook Community Players are currently staging Mary Chase's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a congenial, well-to-do gentleman who happens to have a six-foot-three-and-a-half-inch rabbit as a best friend. The play's excitement surrounds the fact that Harvey, the anthropomorphic rabbit friend, is invisible to all but Elwood P. Dowd (Roger Humber).

Elwood takes every opportunity to introduce Harvey to everyone he meets, much to the chagrin of his social-climbing sister, Veta Louise, and niece Myrtle Mae (Lavonne Hart and Christina Harvell), who live in Elwood's house and rely on his generosity. In fact, the play opens on Veta Louise using Elwood's stately home to host a lavish society luncheon with the intent of introducing Myrtle Mae as an eligible bachelorette to local society's mothers of eligible sons. When Elwood unexpectedly shows up and begins to introduce Harvey to all Veta Louise's guests, it is the last straw: Veta Louise decides to have Elwood committed to a sanitarium.

When Elwood and Veta Louise (and, of course, Harvey) arrive at the sanitarium, a comedy of errors ensues. While the orderly Wilson (one of the more natural comedic performances from Greg Fanning) takes Elwood to a treatment room, Dr. Sanderson (Mark McGuire) interviews Veta Louise -- and determines that she is the one who needs help. Now freed, Elwood quickly befriends Dr. Sanderson and Nurse Kelly (Heather Allen) and offers to come back later and take them out for drinks. Elwood departs, leaving his sister in the hands of the sanitarium staff, and Harvey somehow unaccounted for and loose in the hospital.

Fortunately for Veta Louise, the truth comes out and she is released. Meanwhile, Harvey -- who it turns out isn't entirely imaginary, but is an Irish ghost called a pooka -- befriends the hospital's elusive director, who is quite shaken by the encounter. When Elwood shows up to take his new friends out and to look for Harvey, Dr. Sanderson knows exactly how to treat him. He wants to give Elwood an injection that will rid him of the delusion everyone believes him to be under. Veta Louise's cab driver (Randy Burdick brings a delightful deadpan to the role) interrupts and, overhearing, assures Elwood's sister that the treatment will work -- he has driven lots of troubled people to the sanitarium, only to take them back home after treatment has made them a "perfectly normal human being, and you know how awful they are". It's up to Veta Louise to decide whether Elwood should get the treatment or if she'd rather have Elwood as-is, eccentricities and all.

This production features several budding comic character actors: misters Burdick and Fanning, as well as Emily Burdick and Mike DeLaura.

Also among the highlights of the production is the exceptionally well designed and dressed set. Its functional design is well situated within the space and allows the audience to transition quickly and easily between Elwood's home and the doctor's office at the hospital.