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Harvey ~ The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Jordan Wright
April 23, 2018
Special to The Alexandria Times


I find it surprising when a local tells me they’ve never attended a performance at our city’s 84-year old, multi-award-winning The Little Theatre of Alexandria.  Built in the 1960’s on the schoolyard grounds of the historic Alexandria Academy, the two-story brick building boasts a walled garden abloom with plants and flowers from Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets.  Surrounding the garden is a stunning wrought iron fence and gate circa 1873 from the White House.  Until they had their own theater, the actors performed in Gadsby’s Tavern and other locations around Old Town, where they have produced over 360 plays and shows.  If you’re looking to impress friends or out-of-town guests who have never experienced its delights, see this clever production under Frank Pasqualino’s astute direction with a wonderfully quirky cast who breathe fresh life into a comedy better known as a cinematic vehicle for veteran Hollywood actor, Jimmy Stewart.

Andy Izquierdo (Elwood P. Dowd) ~ Photos are by Matt Liptak.

Harvey is a story of an eccentric man, Elwood P. Dowd (Andy Izquierdo), who imagines a 6-foot white rabbit, Harvey, as his best friend.  Harvey is what is known in Celtic mythology as a “pooka”, a mystical and mischievous spirit in animal form.  American playwright Mary Chase, who won a Pulitzer Prize in Drama for Harvey, was touched by a stranger’s post-war sadness and wove the image from her Irish heritage into this tale of an American family.

Meet Ovid-spouting Elwood – a tippler who lives with his socially correct sister, Veta Louise Simmons (Rachael Hubbard) and her daughter, the pretty, yet unmarried niece, Myrtle Mae Simmons (Catherine Gilbert).  Due to Elwood’s frequent forays to local bars with his fantastical imaginary friend, the family becomes the targets of gossip in their small Western town.  This grinds on the ladies’ last nerve and they conspire to commit him to the local sanitorium, Chumley’s Rest.  Only then can they take ownership of Elwood’s house and, with the scandal tamped down, Myrtle Mae can at last find a suitable spouse.  At least that’s their plan.

Catherine Gilbert (Myrtle Mae Simmons) and Rachael Hubbard (Veta Louise Simmons) ~ Photos are by Matt Liptak

But as well-laid plans often do, this one goes south when, due to the ineptitude of the sanitorium’s chief psychiatrist, Dr. Chumley (Chuck Leonard) and his awkward and equally inept associate, Dr. Sanderson (Richard Isaacs), Veta becomes the one committed in a case of the mistaken psychopath.

The audience can ponder the question.  Who is “sane” and who is “insane” and who is to say?  In this instance the doctors prove to be nuttier than the patient.  What’s key here is Elwood’s happiness and harmlessness vis a vis a society that regards him as a screwball.

Richard Isaacs (Lyman Sanderson, M.D.), Andy Izquierdo (Elwood P. Dowd), and Lindsey Doane (Ruth Kelly, R.N.) ~ Photos are by Matt Liptak

Izquierdo’s Elwood is a wonderful blend of the gestures of straight man Jack Benny and the unruffled dulcet-tones of Mr. Rogers.  Other stellar cast members in this three-act comedy include Lindsay Doane as the lovesick Ruth Kelly, RN, Dr. Sanderson’s nurse and love interest; Patricia Spencer Smith as Mrs. Betty Chumley, the sweetly ditzy doctor’s wife; Tony Gilbert as Judge Omar Gaffney, the family’s attorney; Brendan Quinn as Duane Wilson, the doctors’ thuggish attendant; Mary Jo Morgan as Mrs. Ethel Chauvenet, the disapproving society lady; and David Featherston as E. J. Lofgren, a local cabbie.

With set design by Matt Liptak, lighting design by Ken and Patti Crowley, costumes by Jean Schlichting and Kit Sibley, and sound design by Alan Wray.

Tons of laughs throughout all three acts from this terrific cast.

Through May 12th at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street. For tickets and information call the box office at 703 683-0496 or visit www.thelittletheatre.com

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