Harvey

May 22, 2010

“our belief in his existence is something that must be learned and not taken on faith” – from the playbill.

We weren’t sure, going to Harvey at the Shaw Festival this year, how we’d feel about it, as big fans of the movie. In a lot of ways, though, I found it more effective.

First, as we left the theatre, my mother commented that one “really starts to feel like Shaw’s a community theatre”, considering that some of these actors have been our favourites since we started going, and have been with the company for 25 years. It was nice to see some of my favourite dramatic actors (Peter Krantz, Norman Browning, and others) stretch their comedic muscles, especially since repertoire at Shaw has veered away from dramas in recent years. (This is one of my issues with the theatre; and don’t get me started on giving equal emphasis to “plays representing Shaw’s time” – the dude lived for a century, that doesn’t give you enough material?!).

Sets, etc., were marvelous, as always. But the real gem, of course, was Peter Krantz. There was a bittersweetness to his performance that I don’t know if Jimmy Stewart missed, or if I missed it because I’m more attuned that way now than as a child. Yes, Elwood’s rabbit maintains his joy in life and emphasizes magic and chivalry. But Elwood’s also an alcoholic, and that and Harvey really isolate him, even from his family. The pain of Veta (Mary Haney, another Shaw veteran) and the sadness in Krantz’ voice when Elwood discusses how everyone’s his friend, when they’re drinking, was really moving. We can be sad that society has changed, but that doesn’t mean we can cling to how things were.

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