The cast of Harvey at the Guthrie Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.
Harvey, a play by Mary Chase, which just finished up it's run at the Guthrie Theater delves into the ideas of reality and sanity in a manner that is both comical and respectful. Most may recognize it as the 1950s movie starring Jimmy Stewart. But for those who know nothing (as I did), the play was written in 1944 and in 1945 won the Pulitzer Prize. And although the play is 70 years old and at times it's age may show it in no way feels outdated.
At it's core it is about a man Elwood P. Dowd, his invisible friend Harvey, a large white rabbit, and the effects that this relationship has on his society family. As the action ensues, Elwood's sister Veta attempts to have him committed in a psychiatric institution in order to regain control of her and her daughter's life. It doesn't take long for hilarity to set in as there are many cases of mistaken identity, mainly to the question of who is crazy and who is insane.Veta's daughter Myrtle May brings a delightful lightness in her desperate search for a man, and her eventual crush on an orderly Duane Wilson.
Sally Wingert and Sun Mee Chomet in Harvey at the Guthrie Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.
But through the center a question remains about Harvey, the invisible while rabbit, is he real? As the play goes on a concept that started as preposterous turns more probable as preposterous things often do.
Harvey at the Guthrie was a heart warming production that was beautifully brought to life by the direction, set, and the performances. The set inhabited two separate locations, the psychiatric hospital and the lavish home of Elwood Dowd. The changing of locations is done seamlessly through moving parts and a large turntable which the two locations sit on. The characters were brought to life by a fantastic cast. Sally Wingert, a Guthrie veteran and Twin Cities favorite, was hilarious, both loving and manipulative as Veta, Elwood's sister. Sun Mee Chomet's timing and expressions seemed spot on as Veta's daughter Myrtle May. A young woman desperate for her time to come in society and to meet a man, and unhappy with the road blocks her uncle is putting in her way. And David Kelly who made his Guthrie debut was completely lovable and charming as Elwood.
With Harvey the Guthrie wonderfully staged a 70 year old play which at it's heart was about accepting those you love and being open to the unknown.