Acclaimed West Coast-Based Desdemona Chiang to Direct Pulitzer Prize-Winning Tale About Hope, Family, A 6-Foot-Three Invisible Rabbit, And The Power of Staying True To Who You Really Are
Everyone has a best friend. Elwood P. Dowd’s just happens to be a 6-foot-3 rabbit that no one but he can see.
Welcome to the world of Harvey, the funny, chaotic, and thought-provoking Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Mary Chase made famous by the 1950 film starring Jimmy Stewart. Harvey, which comes to Heritage Theatre Festival beginning July 5 at the Ruth Caplin Theatre, is a powerful look at how we deal with people who are different than we are, the unique power of families to both hold and harm, the complexities of the human mind, and ultimately, the importance of staying true to who you really are.
Harvey will be presented in the Ruth Caplin Theatre from Thursday, July 5 through Sunday, July 15. Shows will be presented at 8:00 each evening with 2PM matinees on Sunday, July 8; Saturday, July 14; and Sunday, July 15. Tickets begin at only $15.00 and are available at the UVA Arts Box Office (located in the lobby of the Drama Building), online at www.heritagetheatrefestival.org or by phone at 434-924-3376. Season subscriptions are also available.
Elwood P. Dowd is a gentle man whose best friend just happens to be a 6-foot-3 rabbit named Harvey that only Elwood can see. When his sister Veta prepares to launch her daughter into society, the family’s reputation is at stake, and the wheels are set in motion for a story that shocks and entertains. Chaos and confusion ensue as the whole town comes together to try and catch this man and his floppy-eared invisible pal.
Director Desdemona Chiang says that the play has taken her out of her own artistic comfort zone and taught her that there were far more layers of meaning in the play than she had ever considered before. Chiang got a call from Heritage Artistic Director Jenny Wales, with whom she had worked several times before. “She said, ‘We are thinking about doing Harvey, are you interested?’ I said, ‘Oh, that Jimmy Stewart thing with the big rabbit? That Harvey?’ Jenny said she thought it would be a good fit for me, which surprised me because I am not really known for my American classic work. But after reading the play, I was really surprised that there was real complexity and even darkness there, and I got really excited about the possibility of doing it.”
Chiang was particularly struck by the idea of looking at this post-WW II comedy against the backdrop of what it means to live in 2018. “The play has some fascinating things to say to us today about mental
illness, good samaritanism, and the question of what do we do with problematic relatives. And I am particularly interested in this question about how we cope with folks who fall outside the scope of what normalcy is, and the larger question of what is normalcy, anyway?”
The cast for Harvey includes a mix of local and national actors, and headed by one who is both at the same time. Bryan Close, who recently relocated to Charlottesville, stars as Elwood P. Dowd. Close is a former member of the acting company at ACT in San Francisco with a long list of regional theatre credits and stints as an acting coach at the prestigious NYU Tisch School of the Arts and head of the theater program at North Carolina’s Governor’s School for the Arts.
The cast also includes New York-based actor Julia Brothers as Veta Louise Simmons; UVA faculty member Cady Garey as Mrs. Ethel Chauvenet/Betty Chumley; Christine Mirzayan as Ruth Kelly, R.N.; Nathaniel Kent as Duane Wilson/E.J. Lofgren; Kevin Minor as Lyman Sanderson. M.D.; Payton Moledor as Myrtle Mae Simmons; Dan Stern as William Chumley, M.D. and James Scales as Judge Omar Gaffney.
The 2018 Heritage Theatre Festival season, dedicated to the memory of David W. Weiss, a founder of Heritage Theatre Festival and former Chair of the Department of Drama, also includes the beloved musical A Chorus Line (June 21-July 1); the raucous Marx Brothers tour-de-farce musical The Cocoanuts (July 19-29); and Katori Hall’s moving and mystical reimagining of the last night of Martin Luther King, The Mountaintop (July 26-August 5).
Free parking for all Heritage Theatre Festival performances is available at the Culbreth Road Parking Garage, conveniently located alongside the theaters.