“HARVEY” Provides an Enjoyable Evening at Theatre Palisades

This scene from the sanitorium includes (left to right) Jaxson Brashier, Maria O’Connor, Isabella De Bernardino, Mitch Feinstein, Levente Tarr and Bob Grochau.                                                                                                 Photo: Joy Daunis

Several shoppers at the farmers market Sunday morning asked this editor, “Is there any news I’m missing? Is there any good news?”


Even as we’re all being hit with higher gas prices, water rationing and heated political rhetoric, I can report something pleasant.

The Theatre Palisades production of “Harvey” finally opened on Friday night, and it provided a lovely, enjoyable evening.

The play was originally scheduled to open June 3, but was delayed when several of the actors tested positive for Covid. This sweet play will still close on July 10, so don’t wait to get tickets.

American playwright Mary Chase received the Pulitzer Prize for her 1945 drama. Five years later, James Stewart and Josephine Hull starred in the 1950 film.

Although the play is 77 years old, the material seems remarkably fresh, and flows beautifully.

Director Marina Tidwell wrote in the program: “Each character around Elwood P. Dowd is trapped in their fear of how they may be perceived and judged, and they are lonely and isolated. The playwright raises issues about tolerance, acceptance, friendship and love that resonate as much today as they did in 1945.”

The story centers around Elwood P. Dowd (Bob Grochau), who has an unseen friend “Harvey,” a pooka — a 6’3″ rabbit.

The family matriarch died leaving the home to Elwood. His sister Veta (Maria O’Connor) and her daughter Myrtle Mae Simmons (Isabella Di Bernardino) have come to stay on the family’s large estate.

Veta is desperate to have her daughter married, but social gatherings end in disaster because Elwood insists on introducing everyone to the “imaginary” Harvey.

Striving for normalcy, Veta decides to place Elwood in a sanitorium. Unfortunately, when she speaks to the psychiatrist, Dr. Lyman Sanderson (Levente Tarr), he classifies her as the one needing to be institutionalized.

When the mistake is discovered, the head of the sanitorium, Dr. William Chumley (Jaxson Brashier), tries to rectify it.

Playwright Grochau has tapped into Elwood’s character, an amiable, likeably man, perfectly. O’Connor, as the stressed sister who has to make the decision regarding her brother, is an accomplished actress and extremely effective.

This is a well-cast production.

“What’s that you say Harvey? This reviewer forgot something?”

“Yes. Well of course, the rabbit was extremely handsome, too.”

This show is produced by Martha Hunter and Mitchell Feinstein. Sherman Wayne has provided another spectacular set. The costume design by Alta Abbott, including the seamed hose, captures the time period.

Pierson Playhouse is located at 941 Temescal Canyon Road. Visit: theatrepalisades.com or call (310) 454-1970.

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