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'Harvey' lands somewhere between lunacy, sanity


It's not so much the giant invisible bunny in the room that defines "Harvey," but the underlying message lunacy might just be better than sanity.

Performed last weekend by the Fort Hays State University Department of Music and Theatre, Mary Chase's "Harvey" was an amiable interpretation of a sweet comedy.

Although well-played by the FHSU cast, some of the play's humorous asides barely were audible and all but lost on the audience. The cast showed great comedic timing, though, and even if the lines weren't heard, the cast still was fun to watch.

Samie Pfeifer, playing Veta Simmons, brought a nice touch of neurosis to her role as Elwood P. Dowd's sister. She's the one who set out to have Elwood (Braden Pruitt) committed to an insane asylum, in an attempt to remove her brother and his "pooka," (a whimsical Irish spirit who's taken the form of a fluffy man-sized rabbit) from her and her daughter Myrtle Mae's lives.

Pruitt was likable as Dowd and delivered some great lines. Hannah Keil, as his ungrateful niece, Myrtle, should have been unlikable (all she wanted to do was get her uncle committed so she could climb the society ladder), but her convincing huffy outbursts were somehow endearing.

Something happened along the way to tucking the affable, constantly inebriated Dowd into the institution, and the line between crazy and sane began to get a little blurry. Pandemonium ensued when Veta was institutionalized, de-corseted and forcibly bathed, while Elwood strolled casually into yet another bar, enjoying a night of socializing with both real and imaginary friends.

The set designs by Bruce Bardwell and costumes by director Tomme Lynn Williams added to the play's nostalgic feel.

Best-known as the 1951 film starring Jimmy Stewart, "Harvey," is a time-worn, well-loved show. It was peppered with quick one-liners, and even though action and dialogue lagged a bit in the last few scenes, overall the show was entertaining and a great effort by the FHSU actors.

Dawne Leiker is a frequent contributor to

The Hays Daily News.