Harvey is Mary Chase‘s 1944 play about the need for companionship and the power of the imagination to combat banality.
Elwood P. Dowd is a man who has checked out of reality and opted for pleasantness, hanging out–at bars and other places–with a tall “pooka” in the form of an affable rabbit named Harvey that apparently only he can see.
As his sister Veta Louise tries to get him committed to a sanitarium–and finds herself getting locked up instead–the gently charming play has everyone acting looney in reaction to Elwood’s supposed insanity, while he sails through it all with a smile and a handshake.
It’s thin stuff and difficult to pull off because a lot of the action happens offstage and is merely recounted, but this production has moments, while not really soaring into the absurdist yet warming stratosphere.
Jim Parsons has the right earnest, bemused decency as Elwood, making you believe he believes while conversing with what looks like thin air.
But Jessica Hecht is strange casting as Veta Louise. Hecht is an excellent actress, but she’s best at sensible, analytical roles, not ones that call for being daftly flustered.
(The pseudo aristocratic accent she goes for here sounds especially forced.)
Fortunately, she–like the whole production–gets better in the second half, especially when she unravels while noticing, to her dismay, that her mother’s portrait on the wall has been covered by one involving Harvey.
Her scream is a scream.
Still, maybe Carol Kane–who plays the doctor’s wife in an oddly paced but aptly wacky scene–should have switched roles with Hecht?
Oh, well, one can only imagine.
Meanwhile, this is a decently entertaining, if not transcendent, glimpse into the horror of normalcy.
Maybe it can be turned into a musical called Hare.