Frances Ford Coppola is a great director. That can be said because of the results of his process. But his process usually involves ‘wasting’ millions of dollars in over-production, ignoring executives who are only interested in making money and that artistically could be described as pinheads, but he is great because his genius is strong enough to see beyond all of that, and his stamina is strong enough to overcome those obstacles. He had to fight with those pinheads to get Brando to play the lead in “The Godfather”. He had to create a mountainous labyrinth of film that went in scores of directions to make “Apocalypse Now” work, and all because his medium is film. Such tricks would be harder than reincarnating Ibsen to try them on today’s modern theatre.

Tonight (Friday July 26, 2013) in the next to the last performance of the fleeting moment that is the live theatre of our production of Harvey, some thoughts crossed my mind. It was the sixth successful performance of a seven performance run. The house was full, save “Table Ten” that was occupied by family members. It included a nine year old who enjoyed the show, but is easily distracted. Sitting next to me was my son who was in an early production of the play ten years ago with his girl friend at the time, and his present fiancé who enjoyed every moment as she basked in the intimacy of our cabaret styled theatre. But the performance was stellar and my only distraction was that this was the next to the last playing of the song.

For the first time I saw that some of the my actors had actually peaked. Another ten or twenty performances and they would remain consistent but this was it. A proud moment, but the moment was now. Then I thought across the years to a remarkable summer at Sam Houston State University. The Texas Educational Theatre Association had conceived a summer graduate program designed for theatre teachers. Looking back there was not a single reason why this crazy idea should work. The idea was to bring together from across the state a small company of actors who would work together for five weeks and in repertory produce two very different plays. It was 1989 and I cannot for the life of me know why I decided that was a good idea or what I was thinking when I signed up for that crazy program.

What we ended up with was a perfect collection of experienced, moderately experienced, and greatly experienced theatre teachers who magically dropped into two productions. One production directed by Ron Caspers, already respected as a stellar director: Spoon River Anthology – a show that I had not particularly cared for previously but would come to love for the gentle/powerful poetry that embraces the stage. The other production was Peer Gynt, a very ambitious staging from a Texas university master, Dr. James Miller, the dean of SHSU Theatre and incoming president of TETA. The experience of working under those two directors, in those two productions, for seven days a week, for five weeks, from 9 to 12 hours a day was unbelievable. Our heads were so full of theatre, the plays, each other, that the rest of the world seemed so far away.

But the punch line to the story is the plays were being prepared for the TETA summer workshop. One of the artists invited in that year was Cliff Osmond. Now most people have seen him perform in films and cable TV movies, and probably don’t remember his name. That’s because the real thing that is Cliff Osmond, is that he is a teacher – specifically a teacher of actors

Jim and Rod invited him into to see the near dress rehearsal performances of our plays. At that point we’d shared so much, experienced so much with each other in a remarkable university setting that we were all pretty high on just how cool we had become. Osmond in words very gentle, very direct, very honest, and memorable showed us how, although we had a performance we could be proud of, also showed us a part of our minds that had never considered what great could be.

More than twenty years later, no more than that day, I cannot adequately describe what I felt upon the realization that there was a higher level to this ancient art. But I saw it then, and I think I understood it on stage in the performances that punctuated all of our work. But I don’t believe there are words that I can write that can describe that feeling.

There is technique, there is mime, there is a parroting of emotions we seek in order to imitate what we believe to be what we want seen on stage. And there is real characterization, that is an expression of the soul of the inner being that has been divinely inspired on a mystical level, and that is muse. It is found in deep human drama, and in thoughtful, cerebral comedies like Harvey.

For a moment tonight, watching the direction that my actors fulfilled I believed that I could honestly take some of them to that next level – were there only the chance. But I know there is no time; there was never the opportunity, only this flash of a dream . . .  but perhaps that is heaven. Perhaps that’s where I was briefly in 1989 with another very special troupe for that brief moment. But I know that I must be grateful for the brief interaction of this diverse group whose only commonality is to perform on stage.

My actors wait while well intentioned patrons finish their breaded chicken and speak of grandchildren, and trifles. Those theatre goers wait too long and then go to the bathroom. They pay too little attention to the careful, thoughtful efforts that has gone into their inexpensive evening shared in a Presbyterian Fellowship Hall.

But this theatre. And at the core it is the same as it has been for thousands of years – the greatest and most beautiful, and least appreciated of all of the arts.

And I am thankful for it.

Harvey Cast & Crew July 26 2013 Blog

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Great isn’t What it Used to be

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Harvey Hits the Boards at Northwood, and Nails It

Northwood Players Harvey 1

[Editorial Note: After our second performance it occurred to me that we likely would never see any ink spilt over this play. So I wanted to be sure to devote as many bytes as I could to correct that. Here is the result of that effort.]

(July 19, 2013: Exclusive)  Local theatre goers are being treated to an exceptional staging of the classic comedy, Harvey, by Mary Chase, running weekends through July 27, at Northwood Presbyterian Church.

Under the direction of Nicki Roberson, who has not been seen on stage since the players produced The Music Man, more than a decade ago; Roberson has assembled some of the best talent in one cast that this city has seen in some time.

Elwood P. Dowd (Gary Sartor) shares his scenes believably with the huge invisible rabbit, slowly convincing us that the mythical being is indeed worthy of all the attention this talent cast pays to it. The gentle, calculated approach that Sartor gives to Dowd entices the audience into his world immediately. The strong text found in this Pulitzer Prize winning play could easily leave the casual viewer to wonder if the pooka really exists, but the strength of Sartor’s characterization quickly wins us over and makes the other characters seem out of place in a world where the creature is not accepted.

Because of the strong portrayal by Jimmy Stewart on stage and in the movie more than 60 years ago, Dowd is often the most memorable character as others companies struggle to catch up with an almost stereotypical approach. Not so with this troupe. Each character, however briefly, or as long as they may be on stage, weave their stories into a well-balanced ensemble that is both fascinating and highly entertaining.

Most important to that cause, is Elwood’s sister, Vita Louise, played by a gifted character actor, Kelli Beth Grant. It is Vita’s struggle that we must believe as she unsuccessfully fights an invisible foe for control of her and her daughter’s sanity. Grant takes every opportunity to hilariously struggle against the unwelcomed friend her brother has brought home. But struggle as she might the other characters seem take turns to line up against her while her own rational descriptions are taken as lunacy. She realizes too late that she has been misinterpreted, and what would be for anybody else a tragic and painful treatment, Grant leaves us laughing out loud at the comedy of errors.

The ingénue, written as a somewhat plain and bitter young woman, is remarkably played by a very lovely and attractive, Anna Meyers. Although she waded in to an extremely talented and experienced company, Meyers holds her own. The character is cuckolded by her dominate mother, but the young Meyers comically gives us that insight while struggling to free herself of a life that she hadn’t chosen. Meyers shows great contrast and insight into her character as she balances the testy relationship with her mother, while humorously flirting with a sexual dalliance, and all the while portraying her pent up frustrations in a way that is entertaining and believable. Predictably, we will surely see a great deal more of Anna Meyers in the future. A sophomore at the Northeast School of the Arts, it can only be hoped that she will be soon recognized in many parts worthy of her talents.

Her own father, Drew Meyers, was lucky enough to share billing if not the stage with his daughter. Half of the romantic interest in the play as Dr. Lyman Sanderson, this Meyers convincingly shows us a young doctor as his blunders and misjudgments advance the plot at his own expense. The part was written clinically and dryly, but Meyers wins the audience with his takes and asides. The chauvinism of the period could easily be uncomfortable as written. Meyers makes us like the bumbling psychiatrist even though he’s never right, but always convincing.

The other half of the sexual tension is warmly pursued by a classic portrayal of the traditional nurse. Tracy Irizarry embraces the assembled in a way that leaves us both loving her in her plights while laughing all the while. Irizarry demonstrates amazing timing and control as she pushes the character right to the top, without going over. We celebrate her victories. We are seduced by her warmth and acceptance, while wondering what the nurse sees in Dr. Sanderson, but accept her choices as well.

John Brand (Wilson) shows great variety in making what could easily be a two dimensional character into an otherwise fascinating and enthralling. Wilson is written as a stereotypical heavy with lots of opportunity for expansion. Brand makes each entrance, usually crashing through swinging doors, different and refuses to ignore the nuance. He makes us like a usually unlikable character. He uses his strong sense of timing and delivery to leave us with an extremely memorable portrayal in a usually unmemorable character.

Dr. William Chumley rounds out the characters who challenge Harvey. Another young and talented actor, Luke Schulte, steps up to convincingly portray a role usually played by actors twice his age. From the first moment he steps on stage he convincingly gives us age, authority, and focus. Schulte rolls through emotions and almost makes us believe that he should take a Faustian approach to the unreality that surrounds him. At the end of the play we believe that he believes in Harvey and that he should do everything he can to wrestle him from Elwood.

Ordinarily, the several hundred words or so already written would be enough to describe a successful production, but not so with this bunch. Smaller parts, largely overlooked in such productions, have become a brilliant completion to this talent ensemble.

Tim Lee, the most veteran of any of the actors on the Northwood stage, returns again to play Judge Omar Gaffney. Lee gives us the frustration of being caught up in the web of a family he’s served for decades. We sense his impatience and believability with dealing with a family that has probably been bouncing off the walls in one way or another forever.

Ida Steele, plays the brief, but scene stealing role of Aunt Ethel to the hilt. The first to be introduced to what she perceives as delusional, she sets up the conflict that must be resolved between Elwood and Vita. She holds back just enough to let us know that she is embarrassingly confused by the apparent insanity of Elwood who she has loved like family. But escapes through the audience sharing her concerns with the crowd which only punctuates the hilarity.

Joanne Cabrera, a stage veteran nails the period as she convincingly portrays a society woman of the 40’s who would far rather go to a cocktail party than deal with the trifles of this plot. If Mary Chase had had such a talent on Broadway she surely would have expanded the part.

Finally we come to the redemptive character, E. J. Lofgren. Randolph Blakeman enters with great energy and sets up the climax of the story, convincingly persuading Vita to change the entire course of the play and give us a happy ending.

The cast gives its audience the opportunity to believe in Harvey without pushing it down their throats. Even the author wanted the audience to actually see the rabbit as more than a quick sight gag. Often companies fall into that same trap and oversell the idea. This group titillates us just enough so that we can believe, but leaves us wanting more.

Were it not for the strength of this company and its ensemble the audience might be tempted to actually applaud the creative set designed by Tracy Irizarry, or the brilliant set projections created by Trey Cunningham, but all of that seamlessly fits into the production along with imaginative sound which ranges from Spike Jones to a skillful mangling of Gilbert & Sullivan, by Judith Harris.

If there is a downside to this production it is that there are only seven performances in a very small house. Presented as a dinner theatre, including dinner and show for only $20, it qualifies as a charitable work by this Presbyterian Church. Dinner is served at 6:00 PM, July 18-20, 25-27, with a matinee performance July 21 at 2:00 PM, serving dessert only.

Tickets can be reserved by calling 409-9467. This is a must see production for any theatre patron in San Antonio.

Northwood Players Harvey 2

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Another Opening not just Another Show

I used the analogy the other night to the cast about a comment I heard from a retired pilot after the Asiana plane went down recently, ‘a good landing is one you can walk away from, a great landing is when you can fly the plane again.’ I knew that the group I was speaking to was used to setting the bar much higher, but frankly, there’s a lot of theatre where the goal is getting through lines and hoping the funny things that were written get a laugh.

 When the play was cast I had only worked previously with a couple of them, but I could tell from that first day that this group didn’t set out just to be in a play. But let’s reflect on the quality of the literature.

When Jimmy Stewart first saw the play on Broadway he told the producer, “I’d love to be in this play.” He was signed for a run the next day. It had had a successful run, but Stewart was exactly what it needed to propel it into theatrical lore.

I didn’t have the same insight when as a sophomore it was the first real theatrical production that had ever been staged at our new high school. It was also our first experience as a cast, an odd group — three of the guys (including myself) were in the band, the rest were jocks. The girls were about as diverse although I only really remember three. One, Lynn Ann Bauknight (Veta Louise) I later dated, Susie Engledow (Myrtle Mae), and I think, Patty Peterson (Nurse Kelly). That was fifty years ago. Two of the group died much too soon. Bill Bickley (Elwood) was a successful television producer in Hollywood, and gave Morgan Fairchild (who was two years behind us in high school, better known as Patsy McClean) her first big break on Happy Days. Susie became “Suzi Lanier” and has had a less famous, but nonetheless steady career in Hollywood for many years.

But the real point is fifty years ago this group came together only once. We were an ensemble, and hung out after rehearsals and through the run more than we would be together ever again. (Other than Lynn whom I’m still good friends with). But after we got off book we found that familiar phrases from the script starting working their way into our shared conversations. Every time we would laugh at the inside joke and all the while thinking that every play we’d ever be in would be just like this virgin experience. Of course, it wasn’t.

Over the years I can’t even recall how infrequent such an experience has been repeated. Part of it was a Happy Days experience that is only recaptured at very successful reunions, but most of it is the magic of this script.

Without a shred of modesty I am overtly proud of what I was able to do with this group of actors, but like Michelangelo who would spend countless hours in the quarry looking for just the right chunk of marble he knew that his talent was dependent on the beauty of the stone he selected. He had the finest marble in the world; I was blessed with this group.

Whatever credit I can boast is only because they have used it as motivation to raise the bar.

I became a high school teacher because I wanted to direct the UIL One-Act Play. I was a teacher for 31 years and in that period there is truly, in my heart of hearts, I know, only a handful of productions that were worthy of advancing all the way. One was the ‘perfect storm’ of a great bunch of kids that had worked together with me for three and four years. Another was a perfect ensemble in the perfect play. One was accidentally great. Another hit rock bottom, was an embarrassment to decent art initially, but pulled itself together unbelievably at the end. The rest were somewhat to a great deal less because of my inexperience, mistakes, or more problems than the public schools are equipped to solve.

I bet I could list every play I directed for contest if I had to, may try later. But the one thing all of these had in common was the delicate ‘flower’ that blooms on stage. I consider it the reason why theatre is the oldest and greatest of all the arts. It is of the moment, and fleeting. It cannot be preserved completely. If you film it and reduce it to two dimensions, it changes as a medium. If you come back after ten years with the same script, as some of us in this show, it’s a completely different animal.

Theatre is of the moment, thank you for letting me share this moment with you.

Nicki Roberson, Director

Northwood Players: Harvey

San Antonio, Texas

July 18, 2013; 10:57 PM

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Dr. Chumley’s Redemption

Harvey Act II Sc 1 (27)

“A voice crying in the wilderness” is an oft heard contemporary phrase. In the case of Dr. William Chumley, psychiatrist and proprietor of “Chumley’s Rest”, the fictions insane asylum in Harvey. It’s a vain glorious extension of his ego, brought about through the headlong collision with reality that the psychiatrist had avoided until the great invisible rabbit Harvey wanders into his life.

I too have stumbled through my analysis in my pursuit as a director of the interpretations of the author. The play is approaching its seventieth birthday of its Broadway debut and, I believe, has survived — still being widely produced —  because of the subtle themes contained in the subtext of a seemingly unremarkable, however unique, period piece from the mid twentieth century.

Dr. Chumley extends the level of conflict both humorously and curiously as he initially tries to correct a mistake and then finds it as a fantastical adventure into his own psyche. But I want to return to my previous premise that Elwood is a living saint among mortals guided by the spiritual Christ figure of Harvey.

Chumley enters in Act I, comfortable in his own skin — more concerned with his prize flowers on the grounds than with the patients in his care. He’s furious over the perceived incompetence of his subservients who appear to misdiagnosis a subject who he believes is clearly psychotic. But in his administrative role he envisions what is invisible to others. Harvey not only challenges his presence of mind in ways he cannot avoid, but the pooka refuses to enable his drinking binge, The drunken doctor advances on a lady in the bar, and refuses to pick up the tab. Certainly Elwood had not only the resources but the will to make it all right, but Elwood is the saintly vessel and was not so instructed by Harvey.

Harvey then doggedly pursues Chumley, and finally waits in his office even after the doctor “sneaks out” of the window to avoid him. That’s a place holder and a plot device, however, while other action ensues on stage. Spiritually, however, Harvey has allowed Chumley the time to wrestle with his own demons.

In the end Chumley does not make the right choices, but is powerless in overcoming the higher power. If I wanted to really get all spiritual here we’d dwell on the Holy Spirit and such directing the hand of Veta who forces the hand that guides Elwood to the cab driver and the cab driver to reveal the truth of the false gods that Chumley offer. That would be the Formula 977, a shock drug that cures nothing but would deny Elwood the vision of Harvey ever again. Deus ex machina saves Elwood (see the previous post “The Gospel according to Veta”) and Veta stops the injection in the nick of time. But we won’t go there.

It’s saves Chumley as well from himself, thus the redemption, but we don’t know if it is permanent.

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The Puppet Master & The Gentle Shepherd

Years ago I was the Contest Manager for an Area UIL One-Act Play Contest. It’s a gig I love, but I’ll never forget one particular time because of the strong contrast of styles between two of the schools.

An important part of the preparation occurs as a ‘rehearsal’ period where visiting schools have the opportunity to work for a short time at the contest site. There are minimum times, but at this advanced level I always tried to schedule in at least an hour and a half.

On the day assigned, and about an hour early one school arrived. They were a frantic collection of controlled chaos. The kids appeared to be already in their characters and the director was demanding to know where their holding room was. It was a school day afternoon, and normally never set up for such a request. I found some place for them to light and gave them a time to appear back at stage. They did. By now various degrees of some costumes were present and somehow the frantic pace had accelerated. On cue the maximum number of students and the director  swarmed over the stage, and 90 mintues later, I was exhausted having just watched them.

That same afternoon another school arrived, comfortably within the margin of their expected time. On cue they were allowed their 90 minutes. The students were controlled, well disciplined and efficient. They went about their tasks and all was well.

Both directors were known to me personally as friends, colleagues, and respected teachers.

Let’s call the first The Puppet Master, and the second, The Gentle Shepherd. The only conversations that I had with the Puppet Master were task oriented and often sulfurous or redundant in the larger contest. I got to chitchat to the Shepard about more personal things, inside baseball talk about the play, teacher stuff. He spent little time overseeing his student’s efforts, during the set up. The Puppet Master had his fingerprints on everything.

When the contest was finally held all six plays that participated were fine examples of educational theatre, like you would expect at that level, but the two plays mentioned here were clearly head and shoulders above the other plays and they both advanced. Region was the next level, and then to state. Both directors had already been to State previously, and this year one of the two advanced to the final competition.

With extremely different directorial styles one is tempted to ask, “Which play was better?” The answer is harder than the question, because the real answer could be, “Whatever works best for the students.” The Puppet Master’s play was the advancing play that year, although style aside, I really thing the other play was better. But each was very successful in their efforts and each produced excellent plays.

But the lesson here is about style. I’ve always remembered that week and it has helped clarify a lot of my approach to actors as a director. The director must have a vision that comes from the interpretation of the play’s text. Likewise the  actors’ interpretation is also important to the production. Ultimately, the director must create a blend of the actor’s and his interpretation of the play. The question remains, ‘how is this accomplished.’

In the raw stage of this production of Harvey I am confronted, if not blessed, with a wide range of experience and talent. With one exception they are all adult talents. Without exception they are all creative, anxious to perform, and challenged by their roles.

Our ultimate success, I believe will be determined by how well I am able to manipulate their efforts as the puppet master, while guiding them to their own solutions as a gentle shepard.  Already in the raw stages of their search for characterization I have been pleased to find readings that I hadn’t thought of for their character as well as things that frankly just doesn’t work.

And we have to work together. In many ways our stage at Northwood is much too small. We’ve increased the square footage by 64′ but although it opens up the downstage a bit, upstage remains clogged and jammed from time to time.  So now my manipulation must include unnatural presentations to the audience, as opposed to speaking directly to the actor that should be standing next to them.

But I think we’ll all be equal to it. Despite the wide range of age and experience, all are creative, enthusiastic, and willing to be directed This may be the best possible melding of the styles of the Puppet Master and the Gentle Shepherd, although ultimately which directorial style will finally emerge is still anybody’s guess.

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The Gospel according to Veta

I just posted another note, thinking I had lost this forever, I am pleased that I have found it and able to share it with the trifle of readers this may reach.

I wasn’t sure how to title this, it could also be the gospel according to Chumley although it also involves a lot of the other characters as well. But it’s basically an extension on my rant on considering Elwood as a saint and Harvey as a Christ figure/substitute. Elwood would not be a prophet, however. Prophets, despite their special attention, by in large in my opinion, usually missed the point completely. If anything Elwood is more like a sinless virgin who was born to live a perfect life. He who did not seek, but found naturally a path that was pleasing. In one speech Elwood tells Sanderson (obviously a Pharisee if this analogy works) that Harvey coincidentally had exactly the name that Elwood liked best. And it was coincidental despite Sanderson trying to break it down with Freudian logic.

But in Act III we see an interesting twist. Judge Gaffney to Dr. Chumley: “Has it ever occurred to you that possibly there might be something like this rabbit Harvey.” Without going into the contemporaneously poor syntax of the line it’s a legitimate question for Gaffney legally, but for Chumley its more spiritual. For him to admit there is a Harvey is an acceptance of the Eucharist. Later he says, “I’ve got to have that Rabbit!” He’s not seeking salvation as much as contentment, but that gentle slide works remarkably well for most Christians anyway.  And if this analogy is true, Chumley is the easiest of Christian followers. Not unlike the modern passion of “Yeah, I could love Jesus if I was rich!” It’s an idea that has filled lots of stadium sized churches.

Back to Veta. She, apparently in the four hours between her brief but humiliating adventure at the crazy farm, gives deposition to Judge Gaffney who has no choice but to find a way to use it to the benefit of his client. “… on the morning of November 4, while standing in the kitchen of her home, hearing her name called, she turned and saw this great  white rabbit, Harvey. He was staring at her. Resenting the intrusion,  the plaintiff made certain remarks and drove the creature from room.” After some prodding by Chumley and over the objections of Myrtle Mae, Gaffney finally confides that she dismissed him with the curse, “To hell with you.”

Okay. A big white rabbit steps out of the shadows on an otherwise sane morning — what are you going to do? But what did Noah, Moses, Jonah, Saul, any number of high priests, and probably a lot of would be prophets, do when stared down face to face, eye to eye, with an overpowering, omniscient presence. They bolted, and who could blame them? Reality is hard enough. The supernatural is off the charts.

That’s why Elwood is a saint. He was comfortable enough to accept what God threw at him. And that’s why, Veta the normal one, thinks initially the solution is to commit her brother even though she witnessed the Truth and can’t fully deal with it.

Myrtle Mae is far too bitter in life to accept such reevaluations. She knows its Harvey that can anticipate the future (or knows all things) but it’s easier for her to remain extremely agnostic and just commit her nutty uncle and enjoy a more comfortable station in life which she sees as a birthright.

“Besides, its’ not your uncle’s fault. Why did Harvey have to speak to him in the first place?” Veta laments. Here she reminds me of an apostle’s wife who followed the Master’s instructions, left everything behind and followed Him. We never hear about these women and their families. We can presume that it wasn’t all that easy for  them. Certainly the Chosen never went back as far as we know even for a short period. But if they hadn’t answered the call it wold be equally as presumptuous to assume that these saints would have been obscure nameless minions, lost in the past and completely unknown to us — they and countless billions others who were not individually selected for sainthood.

But we really don’t know about Chumley. He’s a bit like the poor schmuck in the New Testament I call the 13th Apostle. He goes to Christ asks what he can do, Jesus tells him to live a good life. Then he makes the mistake of asking the next question, “What else … to follow you.” Jesus calls his bluff and tells him to lay down everything, give up all his material  possessions and follow him.” That turns out to be a major buzz kill.

The schmuck goes away dejected. Now he wasn’t a bad person — he just wasn’t ready for the same high level of sainthood that Elwood had stumbled into, and then Chumley thinks he can steal Harvey from Elwood with drugs and material acts.

And it would have worked if Chumley was dealing with dark forces,but Harvey invokes a deus ex machina.  Literally, God out of machine: this phrase was used by the Greeks, later the Romans, to explain improbable resolutions of the plot in their plays (which for the Greeks were more like worship) when there was no natural way for the characters to solve the problems the conflicts had imposed.

Harvey, Veta believes, hid her change purse and allowed the cab driver to expose the side effects of the drug or in my interpretation the rejection of the presence of Harvey. But through grace the right choices are made. Elwood has not rejected Harvey, but has won the understanding and love of Veta.

At the end of the play because of their contamination to Elwood and Harvey, Nurse Kelly and Dr. Sanderson are presumably ready to pursue an idyllic life together. The cab driver is offered redemption and salvation with his brother in a future meeting. We have no clue about the fates of Aunt Ethel or Betty Chumley, but Dr. Chumley is left no better off than Pontius Pilate, but at least he’s seen the light. Wilson is more like a Roman Centurion, or perhaps the bad thief on the cross, although I think this experience changed him as well.

Myrtle may be the least redeemed. Consistently throughout, she is the most bitter, most materialistic and vain — frustrated in every way possible. She is also an interesting caricature of a young mid 20th Century woman, full of foibles and nuance.

Harvey is at best an accidental social commentary. I may have not accomplished anything in trying to explain away the spiritual aspects of an otherwise minor literature adventure of an otherwise obscure (however, grandiose) author, but who cares we’re having a good time doing it.

Tickets on sale soon.

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