Reviewed by Chris Tower
Published April 27, 1999, Battle Creek (MI)
Not only is Harvey the final adult production for the Marshall Civic Players' 50th anniversary season, but it's the swan song for John Sherwood as well.
Sherwood has been active in area theater for over 30 years and with his role as Elwood P. Dowd in the Marshall Civic Players' 163rd production, he bids a fond farewell to area audiences with one of his finest performances ever. Sherwood and his family plan to bid the greater Battle Creek area farewell soon after the final Marshall performance of Harvey on May 2nd.
At left: John Sherwood as Elwood Dowd
In addition to Sherwood, many other extremely talented people help make Harvey, a delightful, 2 1/2 hours of theater. Every cast member renders a superb and inspired performance. There are no weak links in this production.
The show is named for Harvey, a giant, white invisible rabbit, who is the ubiquitous companion of Elwood P. Dowd. Elwood spends his days drinking at local bars with Harvey, passing out cards to those people he meets (a card is included in each program) and generally enjoying life at all times and in all places.
Initially, Elwood's Harvey annoys Veta Louise Simmons (Laura Russell), his sister, and her daughter, Myrtle Mae (Kelly Dominique), who are trying to lead normal, high society lives (on Elwood's money and in Elwood's house). Vindictive and selfish Myrtle Mae urges her mother to commit Elwood to the sanitarium for his elusions. But the plan falls apart as Dr. Sanderson (Roy Brown), Dr. Chumley (Bob Russell), Nurse Kelly (Theresa Parlette) and Orderly Wilson (Thorn Silvertree) bungle the whole operation, committing Veta Louise instead while losing Elwood.
It's Sherwood that spends the most time on stage and sets the tone and pace for this excellent production. His timing is masterful and his delivery impeccable. [OUR NOTE: actually, Laura Russell as Veta spent more time on stage, as Veta has the most lines to say in the play; it only seems that Elwood dominates the story -- which is one of the great illusions of "Harvey"]
Director Dusty Reeds, well known as multi-talented thespian working at the Barn Theatre in Augusta, breathes life into this often-produced comedy originally written by Mary Chase and adapted for the screen in 1950, starring Jimmy Stewart and Josephine Hull. Reeds owns a Professor Emeritus degree from San Jose University and the reason is obvious watching all the detail and business that she packs into this show.
Though the show drags on far longer than some audiences may be able to endure - the first act runs 90 minutes - the show's ultimately very entertaining, in no small part due to the talented cast with whom Reeds worked.
Sets provided by Lyne and Ken Wirtz and lights by C. Lee Ralston are nothing short of incredible. The scene changes between home and hospital are of professional quality, as good, perhaps better than many Broadway or nationally touring shows.
If you have not attended a play all season anywhere or if you love theater and try to see all the best shows in the area, attend Harvey before it closes on May 2nd. As 50th anniversaries go, this one's a winner.
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