Friday, June 15, 2012

Harvey @ Studio 54

Growing up, most people can say that they had an invisible friend.  This loyal pal would sit at the dinner table, watch television with us, and, of course, keep a watchful eye for the Boogieman at night.  Elwood P. Dowd, however, has decided to take this theme to new heights.  Jim Parsons, from television’s The Big Bang Theory, brilliantly brings this slightly crazed man back to life in Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival of Harvey.  Complete with hilarious performances from the entire cast, stunning design, and elegant direction, this revival is the perfect way to open up the 2012 - 2013 Broadway season!
Veta Louise Simmons, along with her daughter Myrtle Mae, currently resides with Elwood P. Dowd in the family estate of Veta and Elwood’s late mother.  The only problem is that this family of three feels more like a family of four now that Harvey is in the picture.  While Elwood loves Harvey and considers him his closest friend, it brings the family great shame and embarrassment … mainly due to the fact that Harvey is an incredibly tall, talking, invisible, rabbit!  Along with the help of world renowned psychologist William R. Chumley, M.D., Veta decides that enough is enough; it is time to get Harvey out of their lives once and for all.  Getting Elwood committed, however, is much easier said than done.  As multiple doctors, politicians, and family members run amuck, it becomes clearer and clearer that Harvey might be the sanest person in the family!
Emmy Award winner Jim Parsons, who was last seen on Broadway in The Normal Heart, shines in a part that he was clearly born to play.  Elwood may see a giant bunny rabbit walking around the stage, but he is also warm, friendly, and charismatic - qualities that Parsons one hundred percent captures.  From his very first entrance, Parsons transforms himself to the point where the audience actually begins to think that it is normal for a grown man to have an invisible friend; a friend that is so clearly created in his mind that the audience begins to see him as well.  Elwood’s clam, smooth moves brings out the crazy going on around him, especially in sister Veta, brilliantly brought to life by Jessica Hecht (the 2010 revival of A View from the Bridge).  Hecht taps into the unstable world of Veta - a concerned mother, tortured sister, and desperate social figure.  She delivers big laughs as event after event keeps getting scrambled from the original plan.  Other members of the family Myrtle Mae (Tracee Chimo - Second Stage’s Bachelorette) and Aunt Ethel (Angela Paton - film’s American Wedding), add to the chaos that surrounds this family; for all they want is to understand why Harvey has joined the family.  Helping take down Harvey is the top notch, and insanely funny, medial team lead by William R. Chumley, M.D., portrayed by Murphy Brown star Charles Kimbrough.  After mental patients are confused and lost and drinks are had with Harvey, Dr. Chumley begins to see the world a little bit differently.  Kimbrough, delivers a stunning performance and connects beautifully with the rest of his staff, played by Holley Fain (Present Laughter), Rich Sommer (television’s Mad Men), and Morgan Spector (the 2010 revival of A View from the Bridge).  The true scene stealer award goes to the always funny Carol Kane known for her television work on Taxi and stage work in Wicked.  Kane portrays the somewhat ditzy wife to Dr. Chumley, Betty Chumley, and brings her high pitched wit and crazy to the stage.  Together this ensemble shines while bringing back Mary Chase’s classic comedy!
Scott Ellis (Curtains) finds the brilliance in this tale and gives both the actors and design team stunning direction.  Flowing brilliantly from scene to scene, scenic designer David Rockwell (The Normal Heart) creates a stunning rotating set that captures the feel of the 1940s with bright colors and lavish dressings.  Adding to this blast from the past is costume designer Jane Greenwood (the upcoming Rebecca) who captures the style of this decade with rich suits and fancy dresses.  All of which is lit with the talents of designer Kenneth Posner (the current The Best Man).  The design team creates a picture that brilliantly crosses the line from realism to fantasy, which adds to the mystical world of the invisible Harvey.  Ellis creates a world that captures the 1940s while still bringing this play into the 21st century.  While some plays come back dated and worn, Harvey still feels fresh all these years later - proving that true comedy never goes out of style.
Harvey opens up the new theatre season with big laughs, wonderful design, and great performances! Jim Parsons proves once more why he is one of the greatest comedic actors of this generation, for him and his big invisible friend are a true delight!


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