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posted: 4/29/2014 9:47 AM

Greenman Theatre concludes 10th season with 'Harvey'

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  • Vicky Giannini plays Verta and Chuck Jacobson is Elwood P. Dowd in the GreenMan Theatre production of "Harvey" that opens Friday in Elmhurst.

      Vicky Giannini plays Verta and Chuck Jacobson is Elwood P. Dowd in the GreenMan Theatre production of "Harvey" that opens Friday in Elmhurst.
    Courtesy of GreenMan Theatre Troupe

  • Members of the sanitarium's staff try to get a sense of Elwood P. Dowd, played by Chuck Jacobson, in "Harvey" at GreenMan Theatre. The cast also includes, from left, Jerry Moore, Dana Peters and Denis Duffy.

      Members of the sanitarium's staff try to get a sense of Elwood P. Dowd, played by Chuck Jacobson, in "Harvey" at GreenMan Theatre. The cast also includes, from left, Jerry Moore, Dana Peters and Denis Duffy.
    Courtesy of Greenman Theatre Troupe

 
By Carl Zeitler
GreenMan Theatre Troupe

When Elmhurst-based GreenMan Theatre concludes its 10th season in May with nine performances of the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic "Harvey," actresses Vicky Giannini and Dana Peters will be more than happy to take to the stage as cast members.

Giannini of Chicago, who portrays Betty Chumley in the production, is appearing in her fourth GreenMan production. Her other GreenMan credits include "How the West Was Done In," "The Matchmaker" and "Smoking Gun."

Giannini says she feels at home on the GreenMan stage.

"GreenMan has celebrated me as a human being, an individual and a performer. I have never felt more embraced with a different group of people (than I do here)," she said.

Peters, of Hoffman Estates, is appearing in her first GreenMan production. She has appeared in "Father of the Bride," "Lysistrata," "Independence" and "Star Spangled Girl" at other theatrical venues.

Peters, an executive assistant by day who portrays a princess at Medieval Times by night, appreciates the work GreenMan does.

"GreenMan seems to put a lot more effort into making the public aware of their performances. They really want to get some butts in those seats. Pretty organized from what I've seen, which isn't always the case for community theaters."

"Harvey" will run weekends, May 2-18 at Asburg Hall at First United Methodist Church, 232 S. York Road in Elmhurst. Friday and Saturday performances start at 7:30 p.m., Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $17 for adults and $15 for seniors and are available by calling (630) 464-2646 or visiting www.greenmantheatre.com.

The show deals with affable Elwood P. Dowd, who introduces his best friend Harvey to anyone he runs across. Much to the chagrin of Elwood's society-minded sister Veta, Harvey is an unseen -- and presumably imaginary -- pooka, or rabbit with human qualities and behavior, that's more than 6 feet tall.

Veta takes matters into her own hands by initiating Elwood's commitment to a local sanitarium so that neither her nor her daughter, Myrtle Mae, suffer any future embarrassment.

When Veta arrives at the sanitarium, a comedy of errors develops when young Dr. Sanderson commits Veta instead of Elwood. As this mistake is discovered, Elwood shows up looking for his lost friend Harvey.

The mild-mannered Elwood affects the people at the sanitarium, including the sanitarium's director, Dr. Chumley, and his wife, Betty.

Giannini, who is a theater major at Dominican University in River Forest, had some definite thoughts about her character.

"I think Mrs. Chumley is goofy! I haven't gotten the chance to play something that's just plain fun in a while," she said.

"Harvey" director Jim Bruner realizes there is significance to the show even with all the comedy.

"Mary Chase, originally known for writing children's books, has given us this poignant play that examines, with brilliant humor, man's struggle with priorities, friendship and inner peace," Bruner said.

Giannini and Peters are part of a cast that includes Bill Boggs (Elmhurst), Richard Bucchi (Winfield), Denis Duffy (Arlington Heights), Chuck Jacobson (Elmhurst), Jerry Moore (Lombard), Duard Mosley (Elmhurst), Jennifer Price (Burr Ridge), Taylor Sebesta (Elmhurst), Barb Singelmann (Elk Grove Village), and Kim White (La Grange).

"Harvey" premiered on Broadway on Nov. 1, 1944, and ran for 1,775 performances until Jan. 15, 1949. Chase won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

During the initial Broadway run, James Stewart was one of the actors who portrayed Elwood. He played the role again in the 1950 film. Stewart was nominated for an Academy Award for this portrayal.

Josephine Hull originated the role of Veta on Broadway and played her in the film. Hull won the Academy Award for best supporting actress. Stewart reprised the role twice more; once in a Broadway revival with Helen Hayes as Veta in 1970 and on London's West End in 1975.

Giannini appreciates the chance to be part of this classic show in GreenMan's 10th anniversary season.

"The role, the cast, and the script itself remind me of why I enjoy performing so much. It gives me a chance to escape my world, but it also gives the audience a chance to do the same thing. Theater is both therapeutic for the actor and the audience member. 'Harvey' is no different. It has a great message and a lovely, fun story," she said.

Peters agreed.

"I really appreciate theater that makes you laugh, but also makes you think at the end," she said. "It may seem like a straight forward, charming, comedic play, but if you peel back the many layers, there's a lot there.

"Also, the playwright does a great job of giving the actor fantastic material to work with without spoon feeding you exactly how it should be done. It's open to your interpretation."

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