Theater Review: Pendragon’s ‘Harvey’ captivates and delights
Pendragon Theatre’s performance of Mary Chase’s play “Harvey” is electric with its comedy of errors surrounding a social climbing family and its patriarch’s invisible friend that happens to be a 6-foot-rabbit. Throughout the play’s hilarious miscommunications the underlying theme is about acceptance. “Harvey” Director Jordan Hornstein brings the message home loud and clear with a delightful cast that captivates the audience.
Kent Streed’s set and costume designs immediately cement the performance in the 1940s and easily transports me from the Dowd’s grand home to the stark sanatorium waiting room.
Jon Biebetrau steals the show as the endearing bachelor Elwood P. Dowd. Biebetrau never lets the audience forget the elephant (pardon me, rabbit) in the room. His interpretation of Dowd’s sunny disposition and kind, gentle ways while gesturing around an invisible rabbit made me want to see that rabbit, too.
Dowd brings along his pooka, explained as a mischievous Celtic spirit that has manifested as a giant rabbit, everywhere from the local pub to the high society tea much to the chagrin of family and friends.
Dowd’s neurotic sister Veta Louise Simmons (Leslie Dame) and marriage-seeking niece Myrtle Mae (Cassidy Dermott) are well matched as the social climbing pair embarrassed of Dowd’s antics. Leslie Dame, currently playing Snake and Fox in Pendragon’s performance of “Little Prince,” is a powerhouse of emotions as the character ashamed of her brother’s antics. Dermott is so expressive as the nave Myrtle Mae that she brings balance to a rigid Veta.
Veta becomes hysterical explaining her brother’s condition while trying to commit him to the local sanatorium, but Dr. Sanderson (Sam Balzac) commits her instead.
Sam Balzac (last seen as a bold Sancho in Pendragon’s “Man of La Mancha”) as the befuddled Dr. Sanderson and Rachel Kemp’s Nurse Kelly are brilliant together as they banter and dance around their mutual attraction until aided by Dowd’s pooka. All the while the sanatorium’s director Dr. Chumley (Jason Brill) is left to straighten out the mess.
After Veta is released from the sanitorium and Dowd is found, Veta is faced with a decision that may change her brother forever. It is up to her to accept her brother just the way he is, invisible giant rabbit and all. There are stand-out performances from this ensemble cast including the thug orderly Duane Wilson (Jason Amrhein), Dr. Chumley (Jason Brill), his wife Betty (Susan Berkowitz) and Mrs. Chauvenet (Josie Good).
Step away from all the electronic media and back into a simple world of imagination. Pendragon’s “Harvey” is a show that everyone in the family will enjoy. You may want to get there quick as a bunny because there are only a few performances left.