Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Harvey is set in a small town in the 1940s where Elwood is intent on forming friendships with everyone he meets and introducing his best friend Harvey to them. That puts a strain on Elwood's relationship with his sister Veta who fears the embarrassment of Elwood's belief in the existence of Harvey will cause everyone in town to think their whole family is crazy. That is especially of concern for Veta's daughter Myrtle Mae who is at the marrying age with her mother hosting parties to introduce her. So, Veta decides the best thing for everyone involved would be to have Elwood committed at the local asylum. However, things don't go exactly as planned.
Chase's script is bright and breezy, though it does take a little while for all of the elements to come together and for the insanity of the situations to fully form. Fortunately, director Mitchell Glass treats the material with respect without forcing the comedy or pushing too fast. Glass also allows the more heartfelt moments to shine while also ensuring the hilarity of each comical moment gets big laughs.
Rob Stuart delivers another wonderful performance as the sweet, caring, warm, and eccentric Elwood P. Dowd, who has perfect manners and treats everyone with respect. Stuart never crosses over the line into caricature or cartoon but delivers a perfectly even-measured performance of a happy, loving, compassionate, and three-dimensional man. Petey Swartz is excellent as the high-strung Veta, who is desperate to introduce her daughter Myrtle Mae to the world at a social gathering and who quickly becomes completely frazzled once things get out of hand when she checks Elwood into the asylum. Swartz has played this role before so she clearly has a good understanding of the character and what is needed in order to derive laughs from the crazy rants and the unfortunate situations Veta finds herself in.
The supporting cast all contribute good work and create humorous characters. Justin M. Howell is stern and wacky as Dr. Chumley, the head of the asylum who might just be a little crazy himself after Elwood introduces Harvey to him. Kelly Hajek is bright and warm as the nurse Elwood takes a shine to. Aaron Seever is charming as the other doctor at the asylum whose mistake sets the insanity of the plot in motion. Sarah White is flirty and fun as Myrtle Mae, and Bobby Jean Owensby plays two parts, including the role of Dr. Chumley's wife, adding fun, humorous touches to both. Brandon Caraco is hilarious as the orderly at the asylum who has no problem handling unruly patients and who can't believe when people around him start believing that Harvey might actually exist. As the family friend who gets pulled into the mayhem, Tom Endicott is appropriately kind and gentle. Chuck Green is fun in the small but pivotal role of a taxi driver.
Hale's creative elements, as usual, are top notch. Kate Hansen's scenic and props design incorporates furniture and set elements that work well to depict the two locations in the play. The costumes by Tia Hawkes and Jacki Marin and the hair and make-up by Cambrian James are character specific and period perfect.
While Harvey may be a comedy that is a little slow going in the beginning, with a rich assortment of characters, humorous situations, and a plot that is well-crafted, it's easy to see why this classic comedy continues to get produced. With wonderful performances from the entire cast, clear and concise direction, and rich creative elements, Hale Centre Theatre's production is a charmer.
Harvey runs through November 16, 2021, at Hale Centre Theatre, 50 W. Page Avenue, Gilbert AZ. For tickets and information visit www.haletheatrearizona.com or call 480-497-1181
Producers and Casting Directors: David and Corrin Dietlein