Bunny Good Time

By Alidor Aucoin on April 23, 2010

The good news about the Segal Centre’s revival of Harvey, the play about an absentminded man who befriends an imaginary  a six foot tall rabbit is that it is a hare brained  delight. 

 The not so good news, is that it only runs until until May 9th.

Harvey-at-Segal-Centre.jpgIt’s a sweet, harmless  work  whose first version in 1944 won a Pultizer prize, then was immortalized on film in 1950 by Jimmy Stewart in the role of the eccentric  Elwood P. Dowd and Josephine Hull won a best supporting  Oscar for her portrayal of his socially embarrassed  sister Vera.   The author,  Mary  Chase, was inspired by the mythical  ‘pooka’ , a shape shifter, which in Celtic tradition takes the form of a rabbit.  In the Segal production, sensibly directed by Diana Leblanc, R. H. Thomson makes Dowd his own character. He invests the part with a devastatingly zany deadpan performance that is often filled with quirky,  endearing  surprise.  Thomson is every inch believable as someone who wrestled with reality for 40 years and is happy to state that he finally won out over it.  Nora  McLellan as, Vera, who thinks he’s off his rocker and plans to have him committed, is also an equally  striking  foil.  The rest of the versatile cast, too, is solid and positively irresistible.  There is Alex  McCooeye as psychiatrist  Lyman Sanderson,  David Francis as head  psychiatrist, William Chumley, who brings a sense of urgency to the proceedings,  Moria Wylie, surely one of the city’s finest actors, is Betty Chumley,  and Walter Massey is the beautifully  spoken  Judge Omar Gaffney.   Other s in the cast are equally respectable, if not quite as strong.  The play occasionally shows its age; there’s a workplace situation that borders on the edge of what today would be consider sexual harassment, but that’s nitpicking.

John Dinning’s set is, as always, an architectural wonder;  James Lavoie’s period costumes are bang on.  Incidentally, the play is also being revived this year at the Shaw Festival at Niagara – on- the Lake with Peter Kranz playing Dowd. 


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