The 2012-2013 season kicked off on Broadway Thursday night with the debut of the Roundabout Theater Company's revival of "Harvey," starring two-time Emmy Award winner Jim Parsons. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
As Pulitzer Prize winning plays go, "Harvey" is an odd duck, so to speak. The quaint 1944 comedy that spawned the iconic Jimmy Stewart movie is dated in many ways; and its protagonist - an impossibly naive, possibly delusional innocent who likes his liquor - is tough to buy in these cynical times. But the sublime Roundabout theater production skirted most of the pitfalls and breathes new life into the 68-year-old comedy.
Of course, Harvey is a rabbit, specifically a 6-foot 3-inch "pooka" who is invisible to all but Elwood P. Dowd, or so he claims. The two are inseparable which leads Elwood's family to believe he's out of his mind. And so after years of embarrassment, Elwood's sister Veta decides to commit him to a sanitarium. When the unsuspecting Elwood arrives at the asylum, chaos ensues as the doctor concludes Veta is the one needing treatment and Elwood is allowed to walk free.
Written by Mary Chase as a comedy, there is more here than meets the eye as the play examines our perceptions of reality and what it means to be truly sane. And under Scott Ellis' savvy direction, it's impossible to make quick judgments about these people.
The cast is a wonderful mix of familiar names and young talents. Charles Kimbrough, Larry Bryggman and Carol Kane discover wells of dimension in supporting roles. But the show belongs to the marvelously animated Jessica Hecht as the excitable Veta and Jim Parsons' sweetly irresistible Elwood.
It's a beautifully calibrated portrait of an all too gentle soul who's figured out the secret to happiness with a rabbit for a friend and liquor as tonic. It's the kind of high-caliber performance even imagination can't improve on.
As played and written, there is a delicate balance between normal and crazy and the key to this charmingly insightful production is that we can't always tell the difference.