James Stewart and his friend Harvey are synonymous with classic cinema. But Mary Chase's wonderful comedy was first seen on the stage in 1944. Audiences responded to the play with open arms as it cheered them up following the war. Director Greg Hersov now directs this play following a year of headlines featuring terrorism and disasters.
Elwood P.Dowd lives in 1940's America with his sister and niece. But the problem is there is also one uninvited house guest; a very tall white rabbit- name of Harvey. Only Elwood can see this furry friend. Harmless you may think but his sister Veta has a non existent social life because of this best buddy. Guests who visit are introduced to the bunny and promptly leave. Is Elwood going mad? Or is Harvey real? To retain his sister's sanity Elwood agrees to go to a sanatorium and this screwball comedy begins to unravel.
This lovely production is so wonderfully played and directed that only the cynical will not get involved. Ben Keaton plays the naive but content 'ordinary Joe' and is always endearing. He makes you laugh at his physical comedy and his verbal gymnastics. Watching him read Pride and Prejudice to his best friend is hilarious as you believe that the 'imaginary' creature is there with him due to the actor's convincing manner. Polly Hemingway matches Keaton in the physicality stakes as her character's nerves shred before your very eyes. Each member of the cast rises to the challenge of Chase's delicious verbal sparring.
This bewitching production warms the heart as it is so damn likeable without being cloying or overly sentimental. Hersov pays homage to the great film without simply recreating a film fan's greatest bits and adding a familiar soundtrack. He breathes life into this nigh on perfect production so that it ends up with a pulse of its own, separate from the film and previous stage efforts. Di Seymour's cosy set compliments the director's intentions incredibly well. As does Steve Brown's brilliant sound effects.
As for Harvey himself, did I see him? Well that would be telling. But if you want to find out for yourself then this terrific play is well worth seeing as it is a real 9 Carrot gold laughter-fest.