“Harvey” was a play long before it was a film. Written in 1944, the play won the writer, Mary Chase, the Pulitzer prize for drama. It was then adapted into the film, staring the sublime Jimmy Stewart. As a reminder, the story revolves around Elwood P. Dowd, his sister and her daughter, and Elwood’s invisible six-foot white rabbit friend, Harvey.
Elwood meets Harvey one night while bar ‘hopping’ with friends, where they take an instant liking to each other, and Elwood brings Harvey home to live with his family. Harvey is a pooka, a Celtic mythological creature full of mischief, but friendly and kind and only Elwood can see him. Although, he has made an appearance to Elwood’s sister Veta from time to time, which later gets her into all kinds of trouble when she tries to have Elwood committed and actually admits that fact to the psychiatric doctor.
I haven’t seen the film in decades, but this wonderfully produced version at Theatre Palisades reminded me just how brilliant this story is. A group of eccentric, hilarious and profoundly real characters are rarely written so well. There are some farcical and caper-esque moments of course, but that really only adds to the whimsey and the charm of it.
Theatre Palisades has done a truly fabulous job of recreating the elegance of the 40s. In fact, the set is excellent and the wardrobe and attention to detail as good as it always is. The actors are really magical. Every one of them.
“Harvey” is tricky to get right. The play is set in a time when appearance was everything and your whole life could pivot on a rumour. So, to have a man opening cavorting with a six-foot rabbit no one else could see would obviously cause quite a stir! I really felt for Veta and her daughter Myrtle Mae, both played to perfection by Maria O’Conner and Isabella DiBernadino. The sweetly profound Elwood is played by Bob Grochau who brings a quiet grace to the role.
The rest of the roles are rounded out by some superb performances, just quirky enough to feel totally real. I particularly loved the strange romance between Jessica Kent’s nurse and Levente Tarr as Dr. Lyman Sanderson. Hilarious! The scheming Judge Gaffney was wonderful too, played by Mitch Feinstein with just the right amount of pathos and slime. But truly everyone was brilliant.
I love to support local theatres and Theatre Palisades is such a lovely space. Every show I have seen there has been funny and wonderful and beautifully executed.
They have one weekend left, I highly recommend that you take a drive to Pacific Palisades and take in an absolute classic of American theatre in one of the most beautiful spots in L.A.
Isabella DiBernadino (Myrtle Mae Simmons); Maria O’Connor (Veta Louise Simmons); Bob Grochau (Elwood P. Dowd); Mari King (Ethel Chauvnet/E.J.Lofgren); Jessica Kent (Nurse Ruth Kelly); Josh Paris (Duane Wilson); Jason Brashier (Dr. William R.Chumley); Laura Goldstein (Betty Chumley); Levente Tarr (Dr. Lyman Sanderson); Mitch Feinstein (Judge Omar Gaffney).
Running through July 10
Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm
941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272