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Comedy classic 'Harvey' opens Thursday at Stage West

A snooty socialite, Veta (Patty Villegas, right) is determined to marry off her daughter Myrtle (Kathy Capelle) to someone equally respectable, and her brother’s visions are getting in the way in Harvey.

CAROL BALLARD | Special to the Times

A snooty socialite, Veta (Patty Villegas, right) is determined to marry off her daughter Myrtle (Kathy Capelle) to someone equally respectable, and her brother’s visions are getting in the way in Harvey.

SPRING HILL

Stage West Community Playhouse will take a flight of fancy — or is it reality? — beginning Thursday with the 1944 comedy classic Harvey, the story of a sweet and gentle older gentleman's imaginary — or is it? — friend, a 6-foot-tall rabbit.

Harvey won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize, beating out Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie, for drama and was made into a much-beloved movie in 1950 starring James Stewart as the affable Elwood P. Dowd, Harvey's pal. It has had several adaptations for television and was made into a short-lived musical.

It begins in the Dowd's home library, where Elwood (Allen Magnus, Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman) is viewed with exasperation by his social-climbing sister, Veta Louise Simmons (Patty Villegas, HAMI as Old Woman in Sweeney Todd), in front of her friends, Miss Johnson (Sheryl Depp, Gert in Lost in Yonkers) and Mrs. Chauvenet (Mickey Mandel, Bonnie in Ax of Murder).

It seems that Elwood, who does love his drink, insists on introducing everyone at home and at the local bar to his phantom friend, Harvey, which leads Veta to cart him off to Chumley's Rest, a home for the delusional.

By some mistake, Dr. Sanderson (Devin Devi, Ellard in The Foreigner), who is in charge of admissions, thinks that Veta is the one in need of psychiatric help and checks her into the sanitarium.

Meanwhile, Elwood goes about his life, amiably introducing Harvey to everyone, and taking everyone at face value, while Veta tries to explain her way out of her predicament, and Judge Omar Gaffney (Maurice Batista, Mr. Jansen in Love, Sex and the I.R.S.) gets involved.

The comedy has become a favorite mainly because of Elwood's pure, but unhurtful honesty. It rang true with audiences in the war-weary years of the early 1940s when it debuted and seems even more appealing in a time of anti-heroes, duplicitous bankers and overly frank characters such as those in August: Osage County and almost any Neil Simon play.

. If you go

'Harvey'

This comedy in two acts runs Feb. 13-16 and 21-23 at Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill. Shows are at 8 p.m., except Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12, reserved seating. Call (352) 683-5113.

Comedy classic 'Harvey' opens Thursday at Stage West 02/10/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 2:37pm]
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