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Harvey


By: Mary Chase
Performances: Apr. 22-May 8, 2011
Auditions: Feb. 20-21, 2011


When Elwood P. Dowd starts to introduce his imaginary friend, Harvey, a six-and-a-half-foot rabbit, to guests at a society party, his sister, Veta, has seen as much of his eccentric behavior as she can tolerate. She decides to have him committed to a sanitarium to spare her daughter, Myrtle Mae, and their family from future embarrassment. Problems arise, however, when Veta herself is mistakenly assumed to be on the verge of lunacy when she explains to doctors that years of living with Elwood's hallucination have caused her to see Harvey also! The doctors commit Veta instead of Elwood, but when the truth comes out, the search is on for Elwood and his invisible companion. When he shows up at the sanitarium looking for his lost friend Harvey, it seems that the mild-mannered Elwood's delusion has had a strange influence on more than one of the doctors. Only at the end does Veta realize that maybe Harvey isn't so bad after all.

Characters

Ethel Chauvenet is an old friend of the family. She is a member of the town’s social circle, which Veta wants Myrtle to break into, and so they both flatter her and curry her favor.

Betty Chumley (the doctor's wife) more concerned with socializing than with science: told that her husband has to examine a patient, she tells him, “Give a little quick diagnosis, Willie — we don’t want to be late to the party.”

Dr. William B. Chumley is an esteemed psychiatrist and the head of the sanitarium, “Chumley’s Rest,” to which Veta has Elwood taken. He is a difficult, exacting man, feared by his subordinates, unwilling to tolerate his mistakes.

Elwood P. Dowd is the central character of the play, a friendly eccentric who spends his days and nights in the taverns of his unnamed town. Elwood’s best friend is Harvey, an invisible six and a half-foot-tall rabbit. The play leaves open several possibilities regarding exactly what Harvey is, whether he is a figment of Elwood’s imagination, as the psychiatrists would like to believe, or he is, as Elwood asserts, a supernatural being known as a pooka.

Judge Omar Gaffney is an old family friend of the Dowds, a representative of the people in town who are accustomed to seeing Elwood talking to Harvey and who do not think anything of it.

Miss Johnson is listed in the Cast of Characters as “a cateress,” but her dialog in the play is tagged “Maid.” She only appears briefly in the first act: when Veta asks if she has seen the guest list, she says, “No, I haven’t Mrs. Simmons,” and leaves promptly.

Nurse Ruth Kelly is a sympathetic character, a pretty young woman who appears to have some sort of love/hate relationship with Dr. Sanderson.

At the end of the play, it is the cab driver, E. J. Lofgren, who makes Veta realize that the treatment that is supposed to make Elwood stop seeing Harvey might drain him of his kind personality.

Dr. Lyman Sanderson is young, for a psychiatrist, but very qualified — Dr. Chumley has picked him out of the twelve possible assistants that he tried. He is just as infatuated with Nurse Kelly as she is with him, but he only reveals his concern indirectly.

Myrtle is a young woman, the daughter of Veta. The main reason why she and her mother are concerned about their standing in the community is that they both are concerned that Myrtle find a man to marry.

Elwood’s sister, Veta Louise Simmons, is an important character in this play because she joins the play’s two opposing forces, logic and imagination.

Wilson is the muscle of Chumley’s Rest, a devoted orderly responsible for handling the patients who will not cooperate voluntarily.