by Beki Pineda
HARVEY – Written by Mary Chase. Produced by Phamaly Theatre Company (presented at the Olin Hotel Apartments, 1420 Logan Street, Denver) through November 11. Tickets available at phamaly.org.
An American theatre classic written by Denverite Mary Chase, HARVEY has been done at one time or another by nearly every theatre company ever formed. It is a favorite because of its gentle humor, delightful characters, and underlying message of acceptance and inclusion. Phamaly brings this timeless story to life as only they can. They have joined with Senior Housing Options to use the beautiful parlors at one of their facilities, the Olin Hotel in downtown Denver, to tell the story once again. A gathering space on the first floor has become the Dowd/Simmons entry hall for the play while a second floor lounge has been converted into the main office of the Chumley’s Rest Home. The audience moves between the two spaces as the play progresses. An easy move for all as there is a small elevator for those who are not comfortable climbing a short flight of stairs.
A quick reminder of the plot which most of you will remember from previous productions. Elwood P. Dowd, a gentle soul, has a sister and a niece living with him who have high hopes for breaking into society in order to get an appropriate (read rich) husband for Myrtle Mae, the niece. Elwood also has living with him his best friend, a Pooka (a six foot invisible rabbit as from Irish folklore) named Harvey. Elwood’s true belief and accommodations for Harvey drive his sister Veta Louise up the wall. Veta tries to get Elwood committed to a “rest home” or sanatorium where he will be out of her hair and she can get on with her ambitious plans for Myrtle Mae. There’s a mix up and things don’t go as Veta planned. But along the way, we are treated to the music and dance of Miss Johnson and Miss Tewksbury; meet the handsome but confused Dr. Sanderson and the spunky Nurse Kelly; watch the overbearing Dr. Chumley get drunk and disorderly; and take the advice of a wise taxi cab driver. A happy ending is easily predicted.
As usual with a Phamaly production, three minutes into the show and any disabilities dissolve in the light of the enthusiastic acting. This cast of players brings their ‘A’ game to the show. Toby Yount as the gentle obliging Elwood allows us to believe as he does that Harvey is sitting in the chair next to him as he leans over to speak quietly to him or offers him a drink. He has an accommodating sense of humor and is more interested in going somewhere for a drink with friends than in causing anyone any trouble. The role of Veta Louise is a dream role for most actresses and Joy Carletti makes the most of it. Her disintegration is a joy to behold and her “come to Jesus” moment at the end of the play when she has to make a real decision about what to do about her brother is entirely believable. Mark Dissette is always a treat to watch on stage, whether he is doing Tevye or dancing in the ensemble. As the excitable Dr. Chumley who comes under Harvey’s spell, Mark delights. In small but important roles, Bobby Carey played Judge Gaffney; Elizabeth Bouchard gave a short but meaningful performance as Dr. Chumley’s forgetful wife; and Jacob Elledge does a good job as the taxi cab driver who knows the true story about what goes on behind the closed doors of Chumley’s Rest. Marcus Cannello was a suave and handsome Dr. Sanderson with Alie Holden as the nurse with the crush.
Site Specific Theatre is described as doing theatre in the place where it is set. While the Olin Hotel looks to be a comfortable place to live (a lot nicer than Chumley’s Rest), it is also a delightful place to view a show. And, as always, Phamaly is up to any challenge thrown their way
A WOW factor of 8!!