Sunday, July 22, 2012

In ‘Harvey,’ Characters – a Delightful Lot of Them

Veta (Jessica Hecht) takes drastic measures against her brother, Elwood (Jim Parsons), to get her way in "Harvey." Photos by Joan Marcus.


is a timeless charm in watching mildly unbalanced but essentially lovable folk go about their business.

“Harvey,” the Mary Chase Pulitzer Prize-winning play that was famously made into a film starring James Stewart, features a main character essentially unmoored from reality. In fact, most of the inhabitants of this Denver are slightly out of touch and oddball. The revival is playing at Roundabout Theatre’s Studio 54 through 5 Aug.(See video at

Elwood P. Dowd (Jim Parsons), like the deadlier aunts Brewster in another zany comedy of the period, “Arsenic and Old Lace,” is agreeably delusional. The titular character is Elwood’s invisible constant companion. Harvey, incidentally, is a Pooka in the form of a 6-foot-tall white rabbit. Elwood seeks guidance from Harvey on all matters, large and small. In turn, Harvey's advice is invariably well placed.

Elwood (Jim Parsons), right, and his sensible and invisible Pooka in "Harvey."

While Elwood is a gentle and generous soul, his sister, Veta Louise Simmons (Jessica Hecht), is not. Forced by the privations of divorce to live under his roof, Veta feels thwarted in her social ambitions for her daughter Myrtle Mae (Tracee Chimo), by Harvey and her brother’s general eccentricity. Her not-so generous solution to removing these impediments is to enlist the help of family friend Judge Omar Gaffney (Larry Bryggman) in getting Elwood committed to the sanatorium run by Dr. William H. Chumley (Charles Kimbrough).

There is no one who does apoplectic better than Chas.K, and he has plenty of opportunity to sputter at the mistakes in identity and cross purposes in “Harvey.” Under Scott Ellis’ direction, the pacing of “Harvey” is as leisurely and genteel as JP, who is superb as the well-mannered Elwood. “Here’s my card,” Elwood says with intense sincerity to everyone he meets. The sets by David Rockwell bring life to both the Dowd family home and the waiting room at Chumley’s Rest. Jane Greenwood’s costumes are perfectly timely and lovely.

Myrtle Mae (Tracee Chimo), Veta (Jessica Hecht) and Judge Omar Gaffney (Larry Bryggman) are a scheming trio in "Harvey."

The one slightly false note in this wonderfully staged and acted production is TC whose Myrtle seems out of character with the ensemble. She is simply too flatly modern. On the otherhand, it is completely believable that LB’s Judge Gaffney was called away from his golf game by a distraught Veta.

Visit to learn more about “Harvey.”

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