If you’ve ever revisited a story you remember from your childhood only to uncomfortably realize “Oh, that didn’t age well,” fear not. Mary Chase’s Pulitzer-winning play, Harvey, written in the 1940s, continues to shine a light on the timeless values of compassion and kindness, as showcased in this recent Everyman Theatre production.
Led by resident company member Bruce Randolph Nelson as Elwood P. Dowd, the cast effortlessly brought the characters to life. Nelson’s portrayal of Elwood, with his infectious smile and unwavering kindness, immediately won me over. I couldn’t help but root for him, wanting to shield him from the harsh realities of the world. The entire ensemble, from the flustered family members to the well-intentioned psychiatric staff at Chumley’s Rest, worked together flawlessly, creating a genuine and heartwarming atmosphere. A rom-com subplot between Nurse Kelly (Morgan Danielle Day) and Dr. Sanderson (Grant Emerson Harvey) further added to the play’s endearing charm.
The attention to detail in the set design and production values maintained the excellence expected from Everyman Theatre. The rotating set effortlessly transported us between the Dowd family home and Chumley’s Rest, while the sound and FX design cleverly hinted at Harvey’s unseen presence on stage. These elements, along with the vibrant performances under Jackson Gay’s direction, created a fully immersive experience, capturing the essence of the story.
While Harvey engages the audience with humor, the connection and emotional payoff become clear in the second act when the chaos from Act I has settled and the Dowd family is faced with a decision. Does Ellwood need to part with his beloved Pooka friend? Does he need treatment because he sees what others can’t? Is it fair for his sister Veta and niece Myrtle to ask him to change for their convenience?
Discussions surrounding mental health have become more open since the 1940s, but without the visual cues of Harvey, one could easily assume this play takes place in modern day. We still encounter different people and must challenge ourselves to accept them as they are. These universal values remain as relevant today as they were when the play was first written.
Everyman Theatre’s Harvey captured the essence of what makes this story so special. The easygoing story reminds us the value of a loyal friend is priceless.
Harvey plays at Everyman Theatre until May 21. Tickets start at $29; there are eight Pay-What-You-Choose seats available for every performance. Visit everymantheatre.org or call 410.752.2208 for more information.
Cover photo: Bruce Randolph Nelson as Elwood P. Dowd
in Everyman Theatre’s Harvey. Photo by Kiirstn Pagan.
Theatre Writer for Baltimore OUTloud.
Bekah is a Baltimore-based ally who is obsessed with all things Broadway. In addition to written reviews, she creates social media theatre content @broadwaybekahchica. When she’s not at a show or organizing her Playbills, you can find her rehearsing with the New Wave Singers of Baltimore, enjoying stoop night with friends, or snuggled up with her husband and pets.
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