Thursday, May 24, 2012


Kytes Theatre Group at Brentwood Theatre

A daughter and her nervous mother receive no gentlemen callers. The embarrassing man in their life leaves the home to drink in cheap taverns and shady bars, and brings home unsuitable friends to play cards. Magazine subscriptions are sold to a "circle" over the phone.
Familiar Tennessee territory ? Well, this is the feel-good comedy Williams never wrote: Mary Chase's ever-popular Harvey.

This is the one – best known as a Jimmy Stewart vehicle on celluloid – about Elwood P, whose imaginary friend is 6 foot 1, and has holes in his hat where his ears poke through.
For her début as a director, Claire Hilder wisely assembled an experienced team of all the talents. Lionel Bishop was "the biggest screwball in town", giving a wonderful study of this oh so pleasant philanthropist – a laid-back, almost throwaway performance, but exuding childlike innocence and naïve charm.
The useless shrinks who fail to turn our harmless hero into a "perfectly normal human being" were Darren Matthews as Sanderson and Paul Sparrowham, predictably excellent as Chumley: his closing scene with Dowd – Pittsburgh and maple trees – was beautifully delivered.
Jeanette Tirmizey played the distraught mother, Emma Feeney her frustrated daughter. Plenty of pleasure to be had from the supporting cast, including Bob Thompson's taxi driver, Alan Thorley's judge and Sacha Flory's feisty nurse.
The clever set design – by the director and Dr Sanderson – swivelled to allow a reasonably seamless cross-fade from family mansion to funny farm, and the incidental music [Happy Days Are Here Again] neatly established period and mood.

Our visits to the bijou Brentwood venue sometimes recall a regular old-style repertory company: familiar, friendly faces playing a range of styles and roles over a season. This week, for instance, our two doctors and our Myrtle May, not to mention one of the lady callers and the director herself, were to be seen on this same stage just days ago in College Players' hugely entertaining Roxy Krasner.

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