Bunny … but true?
Question: What’s 6-feet-3 1/2 inches tall and invisible?
Answer: The title character in the Magic City Playmaker’s presentation this weekend, “Harvey.”
The perennial favorite and Pulitzer Prize winner, written by Mary Chase, will take the stage tonight, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Arvel Graving Theater of the Magic City Campus. Written in 1944, it introduced a Celtic mythological creature, the pooka, to American audiences.
Harvey is a rabbit visible only to mild-mannered Elwood P. Dowd, played here by Chris Hoffer. Dowd’s sister Veta, played by Katie Abrahamson, admits sheepishly that she thinks she sometimes sees it too, after hearing about it for so long. In fact, this is what provides the plot twist at the sanitarium Veta wants to take Elwood to in order to have him committed. She wants him to stop embarrassing her and her daughter Myrtle Mae (Chloe Rickards) in society.
Elwood accepts anything his sister asks him to do, but cannot resist introducing his pooka friend to everyone he meets, like society lady Mrs. Ethel Chauvenet, played by Tiffany Dostert.
When the mistake of committing Veta is discovered, the search is on for Elwood, who eventually shows up at the sanitarium looking for Harvey. Veta changes her mind about the injection Dr. Chumley (Stefan Wolf) wants to give him after talking to the cab driver, played by Brandon Rennolds, who says he’s seen it for years: They go in loveable and come out angry, “you know, a perfectly normal human being.”
Veta decides she doesn’t want to change Elwood like that, so she will just have to live with Harvey.
Other cast members are Spencer Haderlie, Chris Larson, Annika Kraft, Erin Bliss, Branden Evans and Amanda Kraft.
“I had my own pooka telling me to do this play,” said director Alphonse Koenigsman. “I had planned to do ‘Up the Down Staircase,’ but not enough students tried out for it. That has a cast of 30, and ‘Harvey’ a cast of 12, so once I thought of it, it was a perfect fit.
“It’s a great group of kids, some onstage for the first time and some techies we finally got onstage instead of just backstage.”
There are only two sets, which gave Koenigsman the chance to build quite substantial pieces, but made twice the work.
“This is my first time directing ‘Harvey,'” he said. “But the kids are very receptive. I just had to make sure they understood the motivations, then allowed them to find their character’s natural movement.”
Koenigsman creates an environment where his actors always have their say.
“I’m not the puppet master, although I do have to rework sometimes,” he said.
General admissions are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $6 for students under 18. It is definitely a family show, with a sweet moral.
As Elwood says, “Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be,’ – she always called me Elwood – ‘In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”