Make us your home page

'Harvey' captures the imagination

Patty Villegas as Veta, Mickey Mandel as Aunt Ethel and Kathy Capelle as Myrtle Mae star in the production of Harvey.

CAROL BALLARD | Special to the Times

Patty Villegas as Veta, Mickey Mandel as Aunt Ethel and Kathy Capelle as Myrtle Mae star in the production of Harvey.

There are reasons the 1944 comedy Harvey has become a classic. It's fun; playwright Mary Chase's script is tight, fast and well-constructed, and when an audience is lucky enough to get a cast as delightful as the one doing the show at the intimate Forum at Stage West Community Playhouse, it's something that brings a smile every time it's remembered.

Credit director Dalton Benson for fine casting that includes theater stalwarts like Allen Magnus and Patricia Villegas, showcases players such as Mickey Mandel who have previously done well in small roles, and introduces experienced actors such as Rich Fogg in their Stage West debuts. Kudos, too, to set designer Lynda Dilts-Benson, whose clever rolling set pieces quickly and unobtrusively change the complete location of the action in mere moments, with professional-level help from cast and crew.

Magnus is simply splendid as the amiable Elwood P. Dowd, the genial and charming gentleman who has befriended the invisible pooka Harvey, described as a 6-foot, 3-inch-tall white rabbit that only he and perhaps a few others can see. Magnus' quiet, polite, affable Elwood never takes offense and always assumes the best.

"I wrestled with reality for 40 years," he tells the pompous Dr. William R. Chumley (a wickedly funny Fogg) at the Chumley's Rest sanitarium, where his sister has taken him, "and I am happy to state I finally won."

That's a total contrast with his sister, Veta Louise Simmons (an uproarious Villegas), whose social ambitions for herself and her spinster daughter, Myrtle Mae (Kathy Capelle), prompt her to commit her brother to a sanitarium, with a plan to assume control of and sell the family home he's inherited from their mother and take off for parts unknown for a life without Elwood and his embarrassing imaginary friend.

Her plotting comes to disaster when the young, handsome admitting physician, Dr. Sanderson (an appealing and composed Devin Devi) mistakenly commits Veta Louise instead of Elwood. The two doctors dig themselves into a deeper hole as they try to avoid a lawsuit over the whole thing.

Top-notch performances are also turned in by Mandel as the grandiose Aunt Ethel Chauvenet; Lizz Voorhees as the pert, spunky nurse Ruth Kelly, who understandably beguiles any man she meets; Sam Petricone as the pushy, boisterous sanitarium orderly Duane Wilson; Maurice Batista as the courtly, perplexed Judge Omar Gaffney; Gary Depp as the insightful taxi driver E.J. Lofgren, whose words turn the tables on Veta Louise's nefarious plot, and Sherry Fogg as the chatterbox Betty Chumley.

Forum shows eschew the use of body mics, so the volume of the actors' voices vary widely, with some often distressingly soft and others jarringly loud. Perhaps judicious suggestions from stage manager Sandy Penwarden could help the actors modulate those variations, which would add greatly to the enjoyment of the show, especially for those in the front and back rows.

That said, the Stage West version of Harvey provides a totally enjoyable 2 1/2 hours of well-done entertainment. No surprise, then, that word of mouth from the cast, crew and those at the final dress rehearsal about the play's merits prompted so many ticket sales that the theater was obliged to add a Saturday matinee even before opening night.

. If you go


Harvey, a comedy in two acts, at the Forum at Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill. Shows at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday (added performance) and Sunday. Tickets are $12, reserved seating. Call (352) 683-5113.

'Harvey' captures the imagination 02/16/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 12:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Datz to open in St. Petersburg, join the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art

    Food & Dining

    Now Datz news.

    Get it? Tuesday, Datz, the longtime line-out-the-door, oft-Instagrammed and -Yelped Tampa stalwart known for shock-and-awe sandwiches and oh-so-much bacon, announced it is coming to St. Petersburg.

    Lunch guest eat at Datz Deli at 2616 South MacDill Ave. in Tampa. Times files.
  2. What to expect from the Florida Orchestra's 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' show


    With just a few short tings from the celesta, a small piano-style instrument, and you're instantly transported to Harry Potter's wizarding world.

    Courtesy of the Straz Center
  3. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sept. 27


    Sleeping With Sirens: The alt-hardcore outfit tour in support of their album, Gossip. 6 p.m., The Orpheum, 1915 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City. Start at $22. (813) 248-9500.

    Handout photo of Sleeping With Sirens, performing 9/27/17 at the Orpheum in Tampa. Credit: Chris Sullivan
  4. Shriek peek: Top haunted events lurking this Halloween season


    Here are some of the top Halloween events and parties that are looming in the coming scary season.

    “Thriller” music video featuring Michael Jackson with Vincent Price and Ola Ray. Scary movie comes true on a date, while Michael and zombies dance. ?? 1983 Optimum Productions Songwriter: Rod Temperton Album: Thriller Director: John Landis Production Dates: Late 1983 Primary Production Location: Los Angeles, CA.