STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
The audience can’t see him, but Elwood P. Dowd knows he’s there. Who? Harvey, his imaginary best friend. He’s a pooka (a mischievous mythological creature), who takes the form of a rabbit more than six feet tall. “Harvey” is also the Pulitzer prize-winning play that closes the 2014-2015 Narberth Community Theatre (NCT) season.
Dowd introduces Harvey to guests at a society party. That’s when his sister, Veta, who can’t tolerate his eccentric behavior anymore, decides to have Dowd committed to a sanitarium. Somehow, Veta is mistakenly assumed to be on the verge of lunacy — can she see Harvey, too?
It’s a classic comedy of errors, written by American playwright Mary Chase, that has had audiences laughing since it debuted on Broadway in 1944. It was made into the classic film starring Jimmy Stewart in 1950.
The cast of NCT’s production is led by Peter Hayes, of Unionville. He plays Elwood P. Dowd.
“Elwood is a good-natured, even-tempered person, who likes to see the best in others, and who often unselfishly puts others’ needs before his own,” he said. “He enjoys meeting and getting to know people and is not very judgmental. He also happens to see a big white rabbit, who is invisible to most others.”
Despite Elwood’s ability to see an imaginary friend, Hayes can relate to his character.
“I think I’m basically a nice, good-natured person, although I must admit, not nearly to the extent that Elwood is,” Hayes said. “I also hope I’m not nearly as literal and naive as Elwood.”
Hayes, a semi-retired teacher, has been acting for years, but this is his first production with NCT, a not-for-profit theater company that has operated on the Main Line for more than 55 years. He knew and worked previously with the director of “Harvey,” David Leavitt. Hayes said the rehearsal process went well and he’s looking forward to performing for the audience with this company.
“The people are all nice and supportive,” he said, “and NCT is a well organized and well supported group.”
Hayes didn’t start acting until he was an adult. After the acting bug bit, though, he hasn’t stopped. He has performed in dinner theaters and with many theater groups in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland.
“I enjoy being a part of a combined group effort and I like to be able to entertain people and maybe help them forget the pressures of their daily lives for a little while,” he said.
He thinks that “Harvey” is a show that can accomplish that goal easily.
“We have an outstanding cast of performers. I think ‘Harvey’ can be enjoyed by both kids and adults,” he said. “The show has some interesting twists and turns and is very well written.”
Elwood at one point says, “I always have a wonderful time, wherever I am, whomever I’m with.” And NCT hopes audiences will, too, with them and with “Harvey.”
IF YOU GO
When: 8 p.m. May 1-2 and 8-9; 3 p.m. May 3 and 9
Where: Overbrook Presbyterian Church, 6376 City Ave., Philadelphia.
Tickets: Admission is $14-$16.
Info.: Visit www.narberthcommunitytheatre.org or call (610) 352-4823.