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Hop to it: Meet ‘Harvey’ at UMW

Many children have invisible friends. But not many adults count a human-size rabbit that only they can see among their closest relations. 

This premise is explored in the popular play “Harvey,” which will be running in Klein Theatre at the University of Mary Washington for two weekends, Feb. 14–24.

The play tells the story of Elwood P. Dowd, an adult man who has an invisible friend: an over-6-foot-tall rabbit named Harvey. Elwood lives with his sister, Veta, and niece Myrtle, who struggle with his eccentricities, which they think keep them from a normal life.

Veta decides she can no longer put up with the embarrassment of dealing with Elwood, and tries to get him admitted to a sanatorium. Instead, she ends up being the one admitted, and chaos ensues.

Director Gregg Stull, professor and chair of the Department of Theater & Dance and the Department of Music at UMW, said that this production is part of a celebration of 100 years of theater at UMW. “Harvey” was one of the first plays put on at the school’s Klein Theatre back in 1953, and was extremely well-received then.

“It’s a lovely period play,” Stull said. “It celebrates how people are different, and how we respond to those differences.”

He thinks audience members will connect most to the lovable characters.

Freshman Joshua Culhane, who is playing the role of Elwood, said that this is what he loves most about his role—his character is completely genuine.

He said that a significant part of his preparation has been spent creating a mental picture of Harvey. This helps overcome the challenge of interacting with an invisible character.

Sophomore Taryn Snyder will play Veta, a role she explained is very difficult because the character sometimes sees Harvey but doesn’t want to admit it.

“Veta is a very intense character to play,” she said, “but very rewarding.”

She added that though she wasn’t very familiar with the play before, she has grown to love it, and now counts it among her favorites.

Stull, Culhane and Snyder all thought that this was a play that anyone could enjoy.

“It has a lot of depth and a good message at the end,” Snyder said.

The play was written by Mary Chase in 1944. A year later, Chase received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for it.

It has been adapted to both film and television. Jimmy Stewart acted in a famous 1950 film version of it, a role for which he won an Oscar nomination. Josephine Hull, who played Veta in the film, received an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress for her role.

Emily Montgomery: 540/374-5417


What: “Harvey”

When: Feb. 14–16 and Feb. 21–23 at 8 p.m.; Feb. 17 and 24 at 2 p.m. AfterWords post-show discussion on Feb. 17

Where: Klein Theatre in duPont Hall at University of Mary Washington

Cost: $18 general admission, $16 students and seniors. Tickets available at the box office or by phone

Info: 540/654-1111