By MIKE CHAIKEN
Although Jim Parsons of television’s “The Big Bang Theory” appeared in a Broadway revival last year, the play “Harvey” is bit off the beaten path for most teen audiences and teen performers.
All the same, the students of Bristol Eastern Theater Arts will be tackling the hilarious stage chestnut, which was written in 1944 (and subsequently won a Pulitzer Prize).
The play is about one Elwood P. Dowd, whose best friend is a 6-foot tall invisible rabbit. Since Harvey is invisible to everyone else, everyone else thinks Elwood is a bit off his rocker.
Although the play is going on 70 years old, the cast of the BETA production feels that it still speaks to their generation.
Janey Czertak, one of the cast members, said, “‘Harvey’ may have been written a long time ago but it’s still relateable. The way I interpret the story, the theme is all about fitting in. Veta Simmons and Myrtle Simmons are ashamed of their brother and uncle, Elwood P. Dowd, because they fear he and his ‘friend’ will interfere and impact, negatively, their social lives. Eventually, Veta realizes she loves Elwood just the way he is and she has no right to change him.”
Janey continued, “Everything around high school students is about fitting in, changing yourself to blend in. Some kids are like Elwood, they are different and it’s good, just not everybody around them realizes it.
Marisa Padilla said, “This play is relatable to teens our age because it’s about seeing the world the way you want to see it, and I think at this age we’re all trying to figure out our perspective on the world.”
The show won a Pulitzer Prize and the students said they can understand why.
Marisa said, “The writing is very smooth and the lines flow out of your mouth. I love my lines especially because they are so over-the-top and hilarious.”
“The writing is fantastic,” said Janey, “although I’ve caught myself rephrasing the sentences a bit. That could be for a variety of reasons, but I think it’s because the way people talked back in the 1940s was much different than the present.”
The casting is strong for the Eastern production, said both Janey and Marisa.
Janey said, “Our cast is hilarious. we have very outgoing actors that really work to be their character. Whether the character is awkward or pompous or arrogant or eccentric, our actors definitely have the personalities down.”
“Michael Berube (who plays Elwood P. Dowd) is one of the funniest people I know,” said Marisa, “and he brings that to his character and it’s very fun to watch. Now that we are further into the rehearsal process, people are really bringing their characters to life. I can’t wait to see the finished product on opening night.”
Marisa and Janey both said the show will hold appeal to audiences young and old.
Marisa said, “I think teens will like this show because it is ridiculous.”
“Teens will love ‘Harvey’ thanks to the humorous scenes,” said Janey. “There are a few confusing relationships going on, including a young girl named Myrtle Mae who will fall in love with any male at all and a street smart, tough guy named Wilson.”
As for older members of the audience, Marissa said they “will like it because they will understand the jokes differently.”
“Older audiences will adore Harvey because it will be like a time machine, going back to their childhood,” said Janey. “I just hope we, as a cast, can really portray the era correctly. Everything is going to be to date, for example the dress lengths or telephones.”
Bristol Eastern Theatre Arts will present Bristol Eastern Theater Arts presents “Harvey” Thursday through Saturday, Nov 21 to 23, 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general admission, and $8 for staff/ students/ seniors.
By MIKE CHAIKEN