Harvey, Shining Through Productions, at the Heartland Studio Theater. The comedy in Mary Chase’s Pulitzer-winning play is so good-natured that it seems almost old-fashioned today. Without black humor or bawdy jokes, Chase tells an entertaining story about an even-tempered man, Elwood P. Dowd, who’s befriended a companionable spirit named Harvey. But only Elwood can see the tall white rabbit, and his odd interactions with his invisible friend and the obstacles this behavior presents in introducing his niece Myrtle into society force his sister Veta to have him committed to a mental hospital. In the farcical proceedings that follow, Veta is misdiagnosed as the patient and an esteemed psychiatrist finds Harvey’s company quite enticing.
Harvey might be considered quaint today, but it remains a funny play. It does not need to be oversold the way it is by director Tom Lenane and his amateurish cast. With few exceptions–Carl Occhipinti, Chris Thornton, and Marssie Mencotti have their moments as Elwood, Dr. Sanderson, and Myrtle–this ensemble relies on broad gestures and forced facial expressions to get the humor across. Their ham-fisted delivery is all the more out of place in the tiny Heartland Studio, underlining the space’s limitations: it’s abundantly clear that people supposedly unaware of one another are standing toe-to-toe. This production also feels seriously underrehearsed, with actors frequently fumbling lines and cues.