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July 25, 2006 > Imaginary Laughs

Imaginary Laughs

A review of Broadway West's Harvey

by H. S. Sheikh

Harvey, the 1944 Pulitzer nabbing play by Mary Chase, does not seem to be a timeless classic even though the cast at Broadway West devotes notable energy and effort bringing Elwood P. Dowd, a mild-mannered eccentric with an imaginary friend of the carrot-chewing variety, to the stage. To a great extent, the play itself may be to blame here. The pace and social settings of 1944 may be just too difficult to translate to a 2006 audience.

Dowd's sister, Veta Louise Simmons, decides to commit her brother to a sanitarium. His eccentric behavior has embarrassed her and her daughter, Myrtle Mae Simmons, at a society party. A mix-up with Dr. Sanderson, however, leads to trouble, with Veta and Myrtle May not quite getting what they had bargained for.

Veta and Myrtle Mae fail to garner much sympathy for their plans for poor Dowd, who is harmless and unfailingly polite, even if he does partner with an invisible six-foot rabbit. One feels the need to ask the Simmons females why they must be convinced, via ill-utilized mishaps at the doctor's office, that their easy-going, imaginative relative is better than all those, including themselves, who want him to strictly adhere to reality.

Lillian Bogovich fits well into the frazzled pumps of Veta Louise Simmons, Nicole True plays a lovely Nurse Kelly, and Paula Chenoweth is delightful as the bubbly, vacuous Betty Chumley. Harvey offers audiences a peek into a bygone era when social correctness was indicative of actions and speech that today would hardly raise eyebrows.

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