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. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 17: Think 11 miles of nothing but straight trail and open, flat fields sounds easy? Think again.


    Day 17: Villarmentero de Campos to Lédigos: 33.5 km, 10.25 hours. Total for Days 1-17 = 394 km (245 miles)

  2. Tom Sawyer with a revolver? Twain house has live 'Clue' game


    HARTFORD, Conn. — Was it Tom Sawyer in Samuel Clemens' billiard room with a revolver?

    In this July 14 photo, actor Dan Russell, left, portraying the character Arkansas from Mark Twain's book Roughing it, responds to a question from 10-year-old Emma Connell, center, of Arizona during a "Clue" tour at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Conn. The tour allows visitors to interact with Twain characters while playing a live-action version of the board game. [AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb]
  3. Until this song, Alan Parsons Project stood on much higher ground


    Listening to yesterday's Keats song made me pine for more Alan Parsons Project music and today we dig deeper into their catalogue with Standing On Higher Ground.

  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 23


    Marie Antoinette: Freefall 411: A contemporary look at the historic pariah looks at Marie Antoinette through the lens of society's obsession with celebrity. Through August 13. A brief talk prior to the performance provides insight to the production. 1 p.m., show starts at 2 p.m., Freefall Theatre, 6099 Central …

    Lucas Wells as King Louis XVI, left, and Megan Rippey as Marie Antoinette in Freefall Theatre's "Marie Antoinette."
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 22


    Snooty the Manatee's 69th Birthday Bash: Snooty, documented by Guinness World Records as the oldest known manatee in captivity, turns 69 and celebrates with children's games, art activities, cookies, drinks , interaction with Snooty the mascot and reduced price museum admission. 10 a.m., South Florida Museum, 201 …

    Snooty the manatee poses for a photo Thursday morning while three young manatees are unloaded from Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa Thursday morning at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton.
PAUL VIDELA/ 12/20/07