by Mary Chase

The Grand Theatre | March 29 – April 15, 2023

This season’s installment of our American Classic Series is fun family comedy with a lot heart. Elwood P. Dowd is an affable man who claims to have an unseen (and presumably imaginary) friend Harvey. When Elwood’s sister decides to have him committed, a comedy of errors ensues. The doctor mistakenly commits his sister instead of Elwood, and when the truth comes out, the search is on for Elwood and his invisible companion!

ELWOOD P. DOWD | Roger Dunbar
DR. CHUMLEY | Micky Goldstein
JUDGE GAFFNEY | Jeffrey Owen
BETTY CHUMLEY | Vicki Pugmire
EJ LOFGREN | William Manley
DR. SANDERSON | Aron Naylor
NURSE KELLY | Angie Nicole
DUANE WILSON | Robert Easton
MRS. JOHNSON | Teresa McLeod
SWING | Matthew McDermott
SWING | Viviane Turman

STAGE MANAGER | Caroline Cain
SET | Halee Rasmussen
LIGHTS | Drew Bielinski
SOUND | Joe Killian
COSTUMES | Shannon McCullock
PROPS | Maire Nelligan

“For years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.”

Somehow, it’s been five years since the last time I directed an American Classic on the stage of The Grand Theatre. I’ve had a wonderful collaboration with The Grand on this series since 2011. It’s been a joy to direct these plays on the kind of stage they were written for, where life is written on a grand scale. With such plays as The Glass Menagerie, Death of a Salesman, Our Town, and A Streetcar Named Desire we’ve been able to share some of the greatest plays ever written. It is unfathomable to me that various issues (including a worldwide pandemic) have kept these classics off this stage for a half decade.

As we looked to return to these classic plays in 2023, it’s clear the world is not where it was five years ago. We’ve all been through a lot, and it has weighed on many of us. We don’t need to turn to the stage for tragedy and loss and catharsis when it seems in abundance in the world around us.

It is time for joy and hope on the stage, a celebration of life and love.

It is time to highlight another kind of American Classic.

It is a time for giant magical rabbits.

Mary Chase was the child of penniless Irish immigrants in Denver and rose to success first as a journalist with the Rocky Mountain News, and then as a playwright, novelist, and children’s author. She wrote Harvey to honor her mother who had recently passed away and from whom she had learned Irish myths, including that of the mischievous and magical púca. Harvey came to the stage just a month before Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie and ran for four and a half years. Chase became only the fourth woman at that time to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama when Harvey took the 1945 award. (Tennessee would need to wait until 1947 to receive his first Pulitzer for A Streetcar Named Desire.)

At its heart, Harvey is not that far removed from the classic tragedies of its time. Death looms large, family is complicated, madness lurks around the corner, and the pressure of a society that wants to convert individuals into something more manageable weighs on everyone. Mary Chase takes these same notes, however, and tells the story in a major key of love and triumph. Harvey can remind us all that love and compassion can get us through the dark days, and that (as Elwood P. Dowd tells us) sometimes it is better to be pleasant than smart.

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