I spent my Friday night watching a six-foot, three-inch character hop around—and no, I was not at the Macalester Men’s Basketball game. I was at Harvey, the play written by Mary Chase in 1944 that won the Pulitzer Prize a year later. Harvey is a comical play which focuses around Uncle Elwood P. Dowd and his imaginary six foot three rabbit. In the turn of whimsical events, his sister, Veta, tries to bring Elwood to a sanitarium, but after some miscommunication, the doctors eventually figure that Veta is the one in need of treatment.
At first, it seems ridiculous to have an imaginary, anthropomorphic rabbit friend at the age of 45. However, Elwood P. Dowd is quite the likable character in town. From taxi drivers to secretaries, everyone is impressed with Dowd’s remarkable generosity and kinship. Regardless of whether or not the viewer believes that Harvey (the rabbit) is real or not, Elwood lives a pretty fun life. Harvey can stop time and bring Elwood anywhere, but he repeatedly says that he’d rather be nowhere other than where he is — even if that’s a bar at three in the afternoon. The play revolves around two different sets: one being the sanitarium and one being the house that Elwood and Veta share.
Written around the end of World War II, the context is reflective of the whole play. The music, the costumes and even the stage setup all contributed to a world that displays a sense of perfection. In other words, every character is a caricature who prioritizes their external image. Focusing on this sanitarium, the play is about trying to be fixed; every character has a problem: Myrtle May, Veta’s daughter, is trying to find a husband, Veta is trying to fix her family and the psychiatrist is trying to find love in his family.
While everyone’s problem somehow is linked to Elwood, Elwood is the only one who seems to be content. The great irony that makes this play so comical is the sheer fact that many think Elwood is crazy. In the end, however, every character seems to be a bit insane. Searching for someone, imaginative or not, seems to be acceptable in this play—a theme translates to the real world as well.
The actors were incredibly talented, pulled from the finest acting institutes in America. For instance, the character Elwood P. Dowd was played by the gifted actor David Kelly, who has acted in places such as the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and the La Jolla Playhouse.
Steve Hendrickson, who played the doctor William R. Chumley, recently won the 2013 Berkshire Eagle Award for Best Actor.
This was my first time at the Guthrie. The location is great, as it is right next to the Green Line- and the Mississippi River. While I wish I had spent more time looking around the Guthrie, the theatre is accessible and aesthetically pleasing. If you have the time, I recommend seeing Harvey. The actors are top-notch quality, the theater incredible and the jokes appealing to all ages.