There are shows that endure not because they are particularly poetic or riveting or their content is anything so very unique or compelling, but because they play to your heart and they don’t tax your brain too much. Harvey is one such show and Palo Alto Players handles the show with an approach that lets it be exactly what it needs to be, no more and no less. It doesn’t try to make it fall on the floor hilarious, nor does it force it to be overly philosophical or complex. Its well assembled cast is gently guided through the easy plot and silly jokes by way of some really fun choices (and some creative and LARGE, applause-meriting sets) that speak in a genuine, kind, loving way to the spirit of the play. This is a feel good show which fits in with the themes particularly present this time of year and fits the venue and talent surprisingly well.
At the center of our story, or maybe just left of center, you know to make room for the 6 foot invisible rabbit, there is our Elwood. He is played with convincing sincerity and hits an 11 on the adorable scale. He is infectious in his delivery and as amiable a protagonist as you could ask for. He sets the bar high and he charms his audience with a charisma that is endearing, delicate and in a way, wise.
Surrounding Elwood is a flurry of characters of varying levels of sanity and composure who spin about in a farcical dance. I found the majority of the characters to be playing a very specific and honestly narrow range both vocally and physically. Normally this might have been a shortcoming, but somehow when combined, the results were more like a chorus, with each actor “singing a part” to create a harmonious whole. The lack of range and depth in some places really didn’t negatively impact the combined layers of the connected piece which sets you up early with regard to how to enjoy the piece most. Taking this show at exactly face value and not over analyzing it from any angle ensures a really good experience with the show.
Visually this is a delightful display, with some bits of enchantment in the way of effects, lovely sets, functional lighting, and nostalgic costuming all scored with a soothing sound design. The technical elements hug the show, complementing the overall feel and purpose of it, reflecting consistently its optimistic resonance throughout the production. Harvey is affirming and certainly entertaining.
This is sweet, charming, light show, dated in some ways and universal in others, and overall it’s a fun comic romp with hints of magic. It’s a show easy to embrace for its positivity and levity and it earns 4 out of 5 jewels in the review tiara for a lovely night out, full of smirks and smiles. Harvey plays through November 23rd at the Lucie Stern Theater in Palo Alto.