By Mary Chase
John Hirsch Theatre, RMTC
Through November 9
Mary Chase’s gentle post-war comedy about a bromance with an invisible, six-foot-tall rabbit has enough golden moments of human connection and slapstick successes you can overlook its weaker sections.
Longish bits of dated dialogue and some empty scenery chewing get shuffled off and better scenes stumble in with smiles and winks.
The big red curtain rises on Veta Louise Simmons (Catherine Fitch) vowing to ship her bunny-seeing brother to the asylum. It’s rough seeing good actress (Slings and Arrows) wear a bad role, but Fitch has a paint-by-numbers part (see lines: “You said the name! You said you wouldn’t say the name!” etc). It’s a giveaway when the first scene is upstaged by the following finessed, fully considered set change. The play can’t start until we’re sister-free and Elwood P. Dowd (Mark Crawford) is loose with his see-through wingman.
Harvey’s heart rests on Elwood, the true magical character of the show whose warm curiosity breaks into others’ lives. Crawford expertly draws out the payoff lines; the audience approves. I quietly said, “D’awwwww,” a few times.
The rest is farce, and it’s hit and miss. The only duo who consistently sell the zanier scenes in Harvey are Laura Olafson and Jeremy Walmsley, the mental hospital’s nurse and doctor whose hearts and loins are on fire for each other. Their parts and performances are invested; they raise their scenes. Everyone else brings a mix of bulls’ eyes and sad trombones.
A few beautiful bits of comedy are decent reasons to buy a ticket. And “It’s our dreams that keep us going,” is still a decent moral to justify bringing out Harvey, even if some cobwebs are showing.
Directed by Ann Hodges; with Julia Arkos, Mark Crawford, Catherine Fitch, John B. Lowe, Harry Nelken, Laura Olafson, Steven Ratzlaff, Jan Skene, Miriam Smith, Jeremy Walmsley, Alissa Watson, Cory Wojcik; set and costume design by Brian Perchaluk; lighting design by Larry Isacoff; sound design by John Bent Jr.; assistant directed by Julia Arkos; apprentice directed by Matthew Lagacé; stage managed by Chris Pearce; assistant stage managed by Michelle Lagassé; apprentice stage managed by Airyn Lancaster.
Matthew TenBruggencate is a Winnipeg-based writer. He is owned by two cats. Follow him @tenbruggencate, where is he spreading nasty rumours about you.