Court's revival of this comedy named for an unseen giant rabbit has some spring, but it's ultimately more choppy than hoppy.
Elwood P. Dowd is exceedingly pleasant, consistently kind and unerringly honest. He drinks rather a lot, but so what? His only problem, in the eyes of his sister Veta, is his best friend—the invisible, six-foot-tall white rabbit named Harvey is just a bit hard to explain to others, you see.
Mary Chase’s 1944 comic fantasy, which infamously was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama over Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie, shares all the attributes of its Elwood; it’s gentle, humane and old-fashioned in a way that’s both disarming and ever-so-mildly unnerving.
The latter is especially true in Devon de Mayo’s uneven revival at Court Theatre, where Timothy Edward Kane plays Elwood as so unruffleable he seems more otherworldly than simply at ease with himself. That’s enhanced by the broadness of the performances around him, particularly Karen Janes Woditsch’s fluttery Veta and Sarah Price’s squawky, nearly villainous turn as Elwood’s selfish niece, Myrtle Mae.
There are charms to be found in de Mayo’s production, among them Courtney O’Neill’s magical scenic design, and the director’s decision to gender-flip the minor character of Judge Gaffney to allow for casting the ever wonderful Jacqueline Williams. But ultimately, for Chase’s comedy to work, we need to identify to some degree with Elwood’s uncanny decency, Veta’s social anxieties and the pierceable pomposity of haughty psychologist Dr. Chumley (A.C. Smith); instead, here there are a range of approaches and no central truth. There’s a disconnect between farce and feeling; the balance is as elusive as Harvey himself.
Court Theatre. By Mary Chase. Directed by Devon de Mayo. With Amy J. Carle, Erik Hellman, Timothy Edward Kane, Jennifer Latimore, Andy Nagraj, Sarah Price, A.C. Smith, Jacqueline Williams, Karen Janes Woditsch. Running time: 2hrs 20mins; one intermission.