Saturday, April 6, 2013

REVIEW: Love Street's Comedy-Drama "Harvey" Wrestles with Reality and a Rather Large Rabbit

An Invisible Rabbit?

"Harvey" is a sweet gem from the 1940s and starred Frank Fay on Broadway. It was made into a film starring James Stewart and made-for-TV with Art Carney. It has played constantly at high schools and community theaters ever since then. This is always a crowd-pleaser and last night’s fans were no exception.

[Note: Another jewel that Love St. might consider from the same author is "Mrs. McThing" which starred Helen Hayes, a sort of prelude to Mary Poppins.]

"Harvey" concerns a "tippler" named Elwood P. Dowd (Paul Segren—who resembles Mr. Fay a bit). He is a friend to kin and stranger alike, especially a pooka named Harvey. Harvey seems very opinionated, enjoys imbibing a bit too much, perhaps, can foretell the future and, oh, yes, he’s a rather tall, white rabbit and invisible (to most people). Needless to say his presence is a constant embarrassment to his affluent family, his sister, Veta (Joann McClanahan) and his niece, Myrtle (Glendyne Reinmiller).

His kin seem to love this dear, little man, in their own way, but would rather control the family fortune with Elwood snugly tucked away in a sanatorium. I mean, who wouldn't  being related to a person who is friendly to strangers on the street and invites them home to play cards; or asks a phone telemarketer over to dinner; or offers to buy everyone drinks at the local pub; and then, of course, there is the problem with…Harvey. A stranger trapped in a strange land…for both of them, perhaps.

His sister and niece conspire, with the help of a Judge (Tom Golik), to have him put away or, better yet, be cured by the famous Dr. Chumley (Michael McElliot) and his associate, Dr. Sanderson (David Roberts). The problem is that Elwood manages to befriend everyone, friend and foe alike. His (and Harvey’s) charms work a deep magic on all, and when his Waterloo seems to be inevitable…well, you just have to see it, won’t you.

An Incredible Actor

The success of the play lies mainly with the actor who plays Elwood. He has to convince us of his belief in the unbelievable. He has to charm an audience with his very presence. He has to be the better side of us all, the child-like, trusting spirit that exists within. And Segren is more than up to the task. He has convinced us in past shows of the darker side of humanity. Now he has rotated full circle to portray the lighter part of the human spirit. These outstanding examples of his talent mark him as a true artist. Bravo, Paul! See his Artist Profile here.

Another noteworthy performance is McElliot as Chumley. He has the timing and essence of the character and is fun to watch as we see his transformation. Hope to see more of him onstage. Overall, the rest of the performances are good, but seemed uneven with slow cues and awkward pauses at times. This was opening, so I assume these will be ironed out as they adjust to the audiences. And the audience, as mentioned, fully enjoyed the production. Director J. Christopher Cleveland has brought in all the right ingredients for a very good show. 

An Interesting Staging

I must admit that the set changes [a first for LSP, since they usually have a unit set] became a delightful part of the show. The speed in which it was transformed from a room in a mansion to a doctor’s office was amazing and drew well-deserved applause from the audience. The lighting effects, attempting to highlight certain individual moments in the play, were a good idea, but they simply don’t have enough instrumentation to pull them off effectively.

A Side Note: In the past, drunks were portrayed on the stage and in film with some amusement: As per example, Frank Fontaine in Jackie Gleason’s TV show, or Foster Brooks on variety shows, or Dudley Moore as Arthur (perhaps a kissing cousin to Elwood). Nowadays, it is considered a disease. Wisely, Elwood is not played as a drunk, but a man with a gentle spirit. So, it is that “spirit” we should be in tune with, when watching the play. 

I recommend this show (for the whole family). If you do go to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

The classic comedy-drama, "Harvey," by Mary Chase, directed by J. Christopher Cleveland and produced by Melinda Leuthold, is playing now through April 21. The theater is located at 126 Love St., Woodland, Wash.  (only a few minutes from I-5). For ticket and season information go to 

Review by guest blogger Dennis J. Sparks  


  1. I'm going Sunday. Hard to wait. Talented cast to be sure.

  2. Dennis:

    Thanks for recommending the show. It IS a good one. And I agree, the set changes WERE truly amazing. The special effects were quite good, too. However, I wouldn't have went so hard on the lighting.

    I thought the truly great performances were given by Joann McClanahan and Michael McElliott, (they had to go through the most change, emotion and development) though I certainly enjoyed Paul Segren. I must also point out how much I enjoyed David Roberts and Katie Skinner(both had great facial expressions and a mannerisms)and how they interacted. But my fave performance was by far the bit part by Lori Anderson.

    PS: You should have mentioned that it ran 2.5 hrs long! My bum hurts, man.

  3. I agree. Joanne was excellent in this production and well worth the mention. Bravo all.