“Harvey” arrives at Madison College

I had the pleasure of seeing the play “Harvey”, presented by the Madison College Performing Arts theater in early March. They really did a wonderful job of reminding the audience how many talented people there are in our theater at Madison College.

It was a pleasure to watch the cast, led by Dave Pausch, bring the classic comedy “Harvey” to life. The play was written in 1944 by Mary Chase. It received a Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1945 and was made into a film in 1950 starring Jimmy Stewart.

“Harvey” is about a man named Elwood P. Dowd, played by Allen Ebert. He inherited his mother’s money, and it’s safe to say he drinks too much and doesn’t seem to be working. Elwood is kind, gentle, generous, and friendly to everyone.

Her sister Veta Louise Simmons, played by Gail Shearer, doesn’t seem to like it. She also doesn’t like the fact that her best friend happens to be a 6-foot-6 bunny named Harvey. Elwood isn’t the only person in the room who can see Harvey, but Harvey only allows certain people to see him.

According to director Dave Pausch, “It’s based on ancient Celtic mythology. The bunny’s name is Harvey. It’s a Pooka, which is like a spirit in Celtic mythology, like a trickster.

Throughout the play, Elwood has the qualities of a free spirit; he does not try to conform to the norms of society. He doesn’t do what everyone thinks you should do to be a member of high society and these qualities are seen as dangerous and threatening to those close to him… so dangerous that they try to have him committed to a mental hospital for him give some sort of intense medical treatment to try to get him to stop seeing Harvey.

“Elwood is a very nice person, and it takes the whole room before people see that or Veta who’s pretty much the protagonist of the play, for her to see that her kindness is actually something that isn’t not very often in this world,” says actor Dasi Green, who plays Nurse Kelly.

I really enjoyed this piece for several reasons. Not only was the acting good, but the humor really made my day. When Elwood’s mother died, he inherited his mother’s house. Veta didn’t understand why and felt she was the one who deserved the house.

So when her husband died, she and her daughter Myrtle Mae Simmons, played by Stalker-Herron, moved in with Elwood and his 6ft friend Harvey. Veta’s goal is to integrate Myrtle Mae into local society so she can find a real husband. To do this, she begins to invite all the ladies in town who she thinks belong to high society to have tea at their house. But Myrtle doesn’t want Elwood to attend because she thinks if he brings Harvey, it will scare people, which will ruin their social life.

It was so funny to see the reactions of the characters when Elwood shows up anyway. It was funny to see Allen Ebert, who played Elwood, recognize Harvey with a nod or a gesture as if looking at Harvey. It was so fun to watch because it really made me feel like Harvey was there.

Gail Shearer, who plays the character of Veta, made me laugh so much during a scene where she goes to the psychiatric ward to get Elwood hired, but then she’s the one who hires her instead. She is also one of the characters who can see Harvey.

Her voice went through the audience; she had so much passion when she expressed her “concerns” for her brother and when she explained to her daughter and their friend Judge Omar Gaffney how they treated her while incarcerated.

Another character I really enjoyed was Nurse Kelly; the role was perfect for Dasi Green. Although she wasn’t really respected by some of the male characters in the play, her role was super important to the overall message because the only male in the play who respected Nurse Kelly was Elwood. He would wait for her to sit down first, bring her flowers, and not allow any man to speak ill in front of her, but everyone thought Elwood had to change who he was just because he could see Harvey. These actions spoke louder than words and conveyed the true meaning of the piece.

“It’s important for people to see that kindness can very often be taken advantage of and how it can be taken for granted,” Dasi Green said.

The production team did a great job of making sure the audience understood when the characters were in a different location or scene by adding and removing different props from the scene. Nothing really changed other than placing furniture, moving a phone or desk, and changing portraits.

It’s amazing how every move of a piece or addition helps create a pretty enjoyable show. The racing team worked at a fast but fluid pace to get everything in place without disrupting the flow of the game. I really enjoyed the lighting; there were scenes where Harvey walked in and the color of the light became different. Obviously no one could see Harvey, so when it happened, it really helped the audience feel Harvey’s presence. My favorite accessory was a hat that had two holes in the top; it belonged to Harvey obviously.

Overall I had a lot of laughs, but I was also presented with a strong message about how people get sucked into social conformity and how members of society try to fit in with norms social. How when people decide not to do that and don’t conform to social norms, others see that as a threat. He pulled some strings about the involuntary institutionalization of mental illness.

A bit of sexism occurs towards Nurse Kelly, but again the play was written in the early 50’s. The general thrust of the play was to be kind to others and not to just mistreat others because they are different. It also reminds you of what is important in life, ie family; the family comes before society and its opinions.

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