Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Mary Chase was advocating alcohol addiction with her 1944 Pulitzer-winning comedy, Harvey, she sure makes it seem an attractive alternative.
Who can resist giving a silent cheer – or, heck, even a completely audible one – when our hero explains to the man who is determining if he’d be better off in a sanatorium, “I wrestled with reality most of my life, doctor, and I am happy to state that I finally won out over it.”
Even to those who have never seen the play, or Jimmy Stewart’s turn in the movie version, the title character of Harvey, a six-foot, three and a half inch rabbit that is only seen by the amiable and polite Elwood P. Dowd, is as recognizable an image in American pop culture as the notion that the dangerously crazy ones are actually the people who would repress someone’s indulgence in absurdity.
Director Scott Ellis’ handsome and appropriately folksy production is grounded by Jim Parsons, a soft-spoken and somewhat timid Dowd who exudes comforting warmth when in the presence of those who trust him. If not for the mentions of his pookah pal, you’d never suspect him of being alcoholic until he starts describing his regular evenings of bar-hopping (bunny-hopping?). Maybe not the town nut to his fellow Denverites, he’s perhaps more of a curiosity, as evidenced by his description of how complete strangers tend to gravitate to him and Harvey for impromptu conversations. Seems having Harvey around combats his loneliness in more ways than one.
Jessica Hecht is suitably high-strung and haughty as his sister, Veta, who wishes to both clear the family name and acquire her brother’s inherited home and wealth by having him sent away. Her marriage-minded daughter, Myrtle Mae (a very funny and giddy Tracee Chimo), is all for the plan, as her uncle’s influence on the family reputation has left her suitor-less.
Charles Kimbrough, who plays befuddled authority figures as well as anybody, is just delightful as the gradually confused Dr. Chumley, as is Carol Kane doing her familiar off-beat ditzy routine as his wife.
Photos by Joan Marcus: Top: Charles Kimbrough, Jessica Hecht and Jim Parsons; Bottom: Carol Kane and Jim Parsons.
The effort of the bookwriting/lyricist trio of Marshall Pailet (who also composed the score and directs), Steve Wargo and Bryce Norbitz includes all the campiness, broad sexual innuendo and gags regarding low-budget production values that has become standard in such ventures, but the intended comedy of their version of the Jurassic Park story – told from the point of view of the all-female herd of scientifically created dinosaurs whose peaceful world runs amuck when one of them starts growing a penis – thuds along, aggressively unfunny. (“The ‘s’ in science is for ‘Suck my dick,’” goes one of their well-crafted bon mots.)
Pailet’s music includes a fun moment when the company sings “We are dinosaurs! We are dinosaurs!” to a pop-infused version of the film score’s main theme, but the rest of the score is a generic collection of theatre rock, pop and hip-hop.
But despite the weak material, the production is extremely strong. Pailet and choreographer Kyle Mullin remarkably keep the action fluid and energetic in the cramped quarters of the SoHo Playhouse, especially when Mullin has the company humorously hip-hopping. Dina Perez’s costumes, suggesting dinosaurs without going literal, and Caite Hevner’s jungle-inspired scenic design add fun visuals.
Lindsay Nicole Chambers, hilarious as the angry slam poet in the underappreciated Lysistrata Jones, steals every moment she’s on stage as the urban diva-ish Velociraptor of Science and the talented cast includes a charmingly naïve Alex Wyse as the Velociraptor of Innocence and a comically authoritative Lee Seymour as Morgan Freeman, but despite its winning production features, Triassic Parq is loaded down with too much ineffective material.
Photo of Lindsay Nicole Chambers and Alex Wyse by Carol Rosegg.
Although I tend to be a bit old-school in my choice of venues for pre- and post-Broadway theatre tippling, I happily accepted an invite to indulge in a cocktail or two at the Copacabana when I heard about their 4th floor rooftop lounge overlooking 47th Street and 8th Avenue. If you’re like me, you get a little thrill out of watching the excitement of thousands of playgoers rushing to their evening’s entertainment or, a few hours later, venturing back into the real world while discussing the pros and cons of the production. (I’m told it also provides a fine view of 4th of July fireworks over the Hudson.) The retractable room insures protection from any sudden showers in 55 seconds.
I’m sure I took the piped-in music of Barry Manilow singing of “the hottest spot north of Havana” a bit more tongue-in-cheek than was intended but the comfy, spacious lounge with a dark wood floor and black and white décor provided a nicely civilized atmosphere. And with the Copacabana already becoming known as a place to celebrate Broadway openings (Streetcar, Leap of Faith) it might become an old-school theatre hangout yet.
Posted on July 02, 2012 - by
About the Author: After 20-odd years singing, dancing and acting in dinner theatres, summer stocks and the ever-popular audience participation murder mysteries (try improvising with audiences after they?ve had two hours of open bar), Michael Dale segued his theatrical ambitions into playwriting. The buildings which once housed the 5 Off-Off Broadway plays he penned have all been destroyed or turned into a Starbucks, but his name remains the answer to the trivia question, "Who wrote the official play of Babe Ruth's 100th Birthday?" He served as Artistic Director for The Play's The Thing Theatre Company, helping to bring free live theatre to underserved communities, and dabbled a bit in stage managing and in directing cabaret shows before answering the call (it was an email, actually) to become BroadwayWorld.com's first Chief Theatre Critic. While not attending shows Michael can be seen at Citi Field pleading for the Mets to stop imploding. Likes: Strong book musicals and ambitious new works. Dislikes: Unprepared celebrities making their stage acting debuts by starring on Broadway and weak bullpens.