‘Harvey’ Hops to Laguna Playhouse

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French Stewart, Lily Gibson and Vanessa Claire Stewart star in “Harvey” at the Laguna Playhouse. Photo by Ed Krieger

By Christopher Trela | NB Indy

“In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.”

“Doctor I’ve wrestled with reality for 40 years and I’m happy to say that I’ve finally won out over it.”

“I always have a wonderful time, wherever I am, whoever I’m with.”

Those quotes from the classic comedy, “Harvey,” now on stage at the Laguna Playhouse through June 16, suitably sums up the character of Elwood P. Dowd, a charming and affable man who enjoys introducing his friend Harvey to whomever he meets, including to friends of his sister Veta.

One problem: Harvey is an imaginary 6-foot-tall rabbit, or to be exact, a pooka—a benign but mischievous creature from Celtic mythology who is especially fond of social outcasts (like Elwood).

To avoid future embarrassments for her family, Veta decides to have Elwood committed to a sanitarium, but her plan goes awry.

“Harvey” by Mary Chase ran for four years on Broadway and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1945. It was turned into a memorable 1950 movie starring James Stewart, and it’s had several Broadway revivals.

The superb production of “Harvey” at the Laguna Playhouse stars French Stewart (“3rd Rock from the Sun”) as Harvey, and is he a delight to watch. His character gently commands the stage, whether striking a pose or posing a quandary: “I plan to leave. You want me to stay. Well, an element of conflict in any discussion’s a very good thing. It means everybody is taking part and nobody is left out.”

Stewart is surrounded by an equally superb cast, including his wife, Vanessa Claire Stewart, as Veta (last seen at Laguna Playhouse in “Louis and Keely: Live at the Sahara”).

The glorious vintage costumes are colorful, while the set and lighting design perfectly set the mood of the play.

Kudos to director Andrew Barnicle, the Playhouse’s former Artistic Director, who excels at helming this kind of frenetic, yet gentle comedy. He helps his actors find humor not just in the dialogue, but in gestures and looks.

It’s a shame that “Harvey” has such a short run, so grab tickets while you can and enjoy this theatrical treat.

Visit LagunaPlayhouse.com for tickets.

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  1. We saw Harvey last week and enjoyed it very much. The acting is wonderful by all and the gentleman who plays Elrod, is outstanding. His ability to emote, using his body language and gestures to convey his feelings, is the best we’ve ever seen and quite charming! It’s not a short play, so if I had any less positive comment, it would be that you must pay attention and stay the course, but bottom line, we felt it was well worth it! Love the Laguna Playhouse!

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