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"Harvey," show #848

Fresno Pacific University theatre is currently running an absolutely charming production of Mary Chase’s Pulitzer-winning comedy, Harvey. Made famous by James Stewart and Josephine Hull (in her Oscar-winning performance), the script has stood the test of time because of its charm and warmth, entertaining audiences while giving thought to relationships with our family and members of society. Led by a triumphant Joseph Ham as Elwood P. Dowd and helmed with deft direction by Elizabeth Fiester, this Harvey has all the whimsy and wit audiences want in their time out at the theater.

Dowd sees a 6-foot-1-and-a-half-inch Pooka rabbit, and nobody else can…or at least they claim they can’t. When Dowd’s sister, Veta--played with wonderful comic timing by Steph Gonzales—attempts to commit him to the local sanitarium, Harvey becomes not just the object of focus but rather a primetime player in the ensuing chaos. Gonzales’ sisterly dedication to Ham’s calm, cool, collected Dowd is a tremendously fun foil to watch develop. Ham delivers a suave, charming Dowd with consistent twinkle and believable generosity. With a three-monologue punch coming in the final scenes, Ham gives nuance and subtlety to each delivery, maintaining the character’s consistency while never being drab in a role which doesn’t offer many emotional highs or lows to play.

Notable supporting performances come from a delightfully dramatic Alex Hodson as Myrtle, a professionally wise Lindsay Martin as Nurse Kelly, and a jovial Sabelosethu Mlaba as Wilson (the role is alternately played by B.K. Robinson), the orderly who works at the sanitarium. Mlaba’s flashy smile and tone shift from polite professional to annoyed employee is expert in timing and delivery. Edgar Olivera is a commanding Dr. Chumley, giving his fellow players plenty to work off when the figurative mess hits the fan. Olivera’s cadence goes through a lovely change from in-charge boss to contemplative man opposite Ham in their duet scene towards the end of the play.

Martin Productions has graced the Fresno Pacific black box theatre with a superb set, balancing a nice bright household library with the vintage office aesthetic of Chumley’s Rest. The set serves as spacious while giving easy context for audiences to travel back in time to the era, making some of the jargon easier to digest. Brooke Aiello costumes the cast splendidly and in true characteristic form, giving personality and pop to each player, especially with Myrtle and Betty’s dresses. Bringing it altogether is Fiester’s vision and pacing, making the traditionally-structured three-act play seem like another binge-able beloved sitcom one watches as nostalgic comfort food.

A major bravo to the cast and company, and I do believe you would benefit from paying a visit to meet Harvey. Go see this show!

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