The mounting of a classic comedy by a college is bold in that theater students do not always appreciate the timeless nature of a classic. Such was not the case last night at Act 1, the performing arts arm of DeSales University who has provided Philadelphia, New York and other cities with many fine professional actors, directors, and technicians. Every aspect of this play demonstrated knowledge, intention and joy. They embraced the message and infused new life into the Pulitzer Prize winning gem that was created during WWII and actually was performed for the troops.
HARVEY by Mary Chase is the story of Elwood P. Dowd, a wealthy gentleman who spends most of his time with a six foot, imaginary rabbit named “Harvey.” His loving sister and niece begin the play desperately embarrassed by both his drinking and his imaginary friend. Concerned about what “people” will think, the ladies have agreed to have Elwood committed to Chumley’s sanitarium.
While attempting to have her brother committed, Veta Louise Simmons shares her experience with a young psychiatrist. As a result the doctor decides she is really the one needing commitment. From this point on is a play that is both hilarious in its use of mistaken identity, sloppy communication, and human misunderstanding and poignant in its juxtaposition of real and superficial caring.
As Elwood P. Dowd, Matt Enters does a wonderful job of making the character both lovable and insightful. He is convincing in maintaining focus on his non-existent sidekick. He chooses the simplicity of being pleasant while all around him are manipulated by superficial concern for what others think. The entire cast follows his lead embracing his or her character with gusto. One very impressive note is how well this cast of young people portrayed the physicality of someone older. Their hard work is a credit to the training they receive at DeSales.
Jonathan Wallace impresses as Dr. Chumley, whose special interest in Elwood’s case creates a perfect foil for the ingenuous Dowd; Valerie Berger as Dowd’s well meaning, but misguided sister uses exquisite timing to create many of the plays more hilarious moments. The rest of the cast is equally well used to keep the play moving at the break neck speed required for this comedy.
The tech people on this play should be equally proud. From a beautifully appointed home to a sanitarium, the set creates a wonderful playground for the actors and directors to use. Both lighting and sound contribute mightily to the overall effectiveness of the production and the costumes help the actors embody the characters they portray.
Director Matt Pfeiffer, a DeSales graduate and one of the area’s finest actors and directors does a great job with his band of young people in creating a world where “We care far too much about how we are perceived than with the content of our character.” (Director’s Notes)
In a world where personal technology rules, I encourage you to take the trip to DeSales and spend a lovely evening with Elwood P. Dowd. You’ll feel better for it.
by Margaret Chase
Directed by Matt Pfeiffer
October 1 – October 12
Act 1, DeSales University Performing Arts
2755 Station Ave.
Center Valley, PA 18034
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