If you have ever thought that the world was crazy, this play is for you.
The Albright Theatre Company in Batavia presents the play “Harvey” at 8 p.m. Sept. 13, 14 and 20; and at 2 p.m. Sept. 15 and 21 at the Albright Theatre Company on the third floor of the Batavia Government Building in Batavia.
“Harvey” is a 1944 play by Mary Chase, who received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the work. It was most notably adapted for a 1950 film starring James Stewart.
It is the story of Elwood P. Dowd (Jim Oberg of Batavia), a likeable guy who happens to have an imaginary friend named Harvey. Harvey is an invisible six and-a-half foot rabbit. Elwood lives with his snooty sister, Veta Louise Simmons (Kristen Duerdoth of Geneva), who is mortified by Elwood and tries to have him committed.
When they arrive at the sanitarium, a comedy of errors ensues and the doctors try to commit Veta instead. In the confusion, Elwood slips away, resulting in a chaotic search for Elwood and Harvey. Soon, much of the sanitarium staff and even Veta are questioning their own sanity.
“Harvey” is directed by Jeff Small of Elgin, who has been involved in the play three times prior to this as an actor.
“I understand the ins and outs … of what needs to be done to bring the rabbit to reality,” he said. “That’s one of the most difficult parts of the show, to get the audience to believe the rabbit actually exists.”
Another challenging aspect of the show is that it has two completely different sets that have to be transformed and transported around on the Albright’s small stage, he said.
Fortunately, one aspect that is flowing smoothly is his cast, he said. Everyone has embraced their characters. Oberg has played Elwood twice, in fact.
One of the play’s grand ideas is that as adults, we lose the ability to see our imaginary friends, or pookas, as they are called in the play.
“As children, we see our imaginary friends and playmates all over the place,” Small said. “As adults, we lose that ability to see them. Elwood has that ability to pick that back up and see him again. As a family, they are more concerned with what society thinks of them than they are with Elwood’s well-being. They are convinced they need to lock up Elwood in order to get rid of this rabbit so they can take their proper place in society.”
At the end of the play, when Veta tries to convince Elwood to get a shot that will make him like everybody else, she realizes that it will indeed make him just like everybody else — and that’s not such a good thing.
The cast of characters are all a little off-kilter, with the exception of Elwood.
“Elwood seems like the sanest person in the entire show. Everyone is running around trying to solve his problems and not working on their own problems,” Small said. “And although the characters don’t want to admit that Harvey exists, several times throughout the show they admit to seeing him.”
People will like the humor in the show, he said. It’s a time to relax and perhaps to see their old “pooka” again, he said.