Hampton Theatre Company began its 30th season last Thursday in Quogue with Harvey, Mary Chase’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama-winning 1944 play about an eccentric man with a 6-foot-3-and-one-half-inch-tall invisible rabbit for a best friend. This comic story not only provides laughs, but forces the audience to question why everyone, themselves included, is not friendlier and happier.
Elwood P. Dowd (Matthew Conlon) always has a smile on his face and his impeccable manners are unwavering, especially when it comes to formally introducing his friend Harvey. Though no one can see or hear Harvey but him, it never fazes Elwood. He is quick to explain that Harvey is a pooka—a mischievous creature from Celtic mythology.
Elwood’s behavior is an embarrassment for his social climbing sister, Veta (Pamela Kern), who wants Elwood out of the mansion they share along with Veta’s daughter, Myrtle Mae (Amanda Griemsmann). When she’s had enough of Elwood’s strange behavior and frequent drinking, Veta brings Elwood to a sanitarium to have him committed, and that’s when a comedy of errors begins.
In any encounter, up until Elwood introduces Harvey, he seems perfectly normal, albeit incredibly friendly and forward. Though he has no occupation, he wants everyone to take his card, and if he’s not inviting people he just met for a drink, he’s itching for a social occasion he can crash with Harvey.
Conlon’s Elwood is wide-eyed, sincere, and never agitated, even when the occasion calls for it. He can often deliver a laugh with just a look or gesture.
Kern’s Veta is often worked up, and Griemsmann exudes both the innocence and the curiosity of a young woman coming of age.
At the sanitarium, Sebastian Marbury and Krista Kurtzberg play off each other as doctor and infatuated nurse, and Russell Weisenbacher delivers the oafish orderly Duane. John Kern as Dr. Chumley, a renowned psychiatrist and head of the sanitarium, is a standout as he plays the good doctor both pre meeting Harvey, and post. Harvey’s effect on some people can be quite the sea change.
The takeaway from this play is that a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met. Elwood—and Harvey— might just rub off on you.
Hampton Theatre Company artistic director Diana Marbury directs. Sean Marbury designed the set, which was a technical feat for the modest stage. In order to quickly change back and forth between the sanitarium and the Dowd mansion, the set folds open and closed. Teresa Lebrun was in charge of the spot-on 1940s outfits.
Harvey will be staged Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through November 9 at Quogue Community Hall, 125 Jessup Avenue, Quogue. General admission is $25. Tickets for seniors are $23, except for Saturday performances. Students under 21 will be admitted for $10, with ID.
The season will continue with Time Stands Still by Donald Margulles, January 8–25, and Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris, March 12–29, and conclude with Hay Fever by Noel Coward, May 21–June 7.
A season subscription is $80 and includes one ticket to each of the four shows. Reservations for certain dates and seats will be available on a first-come, first-served basis for subscribers.
Visit hamptontheatre.org or call 866-811-4111 for tickets and subscriptions.