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'Harvey:' Invisible Bonds, Visible Bonding

Tall but supernatural invisible rabbit seeks lonely but loyal companion who likes hanging out in bars and doesn’t mind being called “crazy.” Although not a typical friend, Harvey materializes in Home School ITS’s rendition of the play by the same name.

First performed in 1944, "Harvey" by Mary Chase swept audiences by bringing a six-foot-three-inch invisible rabbit to the stage with the help of his trusty companion Elwood P. Dowd (here played by Eben Kuhns). The Pulitzer-prize winning play ran for nearly 2,000 performances before finally hitting the big screen in 1950 starring Jimmy Stewart. Dowd and Harvey deal with many psychiatrists and family members who try to break their bond of friendship, but in the end the invisible bond was stronger than anyone could have imagined.

Eben Kuhns was immersed in his character as Harvey’s human companion, always maintaining a sense of space and reality, despite the challenge of communicating with an invisible being. Never once breaking character, Kuhns gives a solid understanding of his part, completely oblivious for the most part to his sister Veta Simmons (Rin Barton) as she tries to send him to a sanitarium. Barton also gives an enthusiastic performance, completing her character’s “whirlwind” by delivering subtle yet over the top comedic scenarios while having to deal with the imaginary Harvey.

Helping maintain Veta’s sanity is her lovely daughter Mrytle Mae Simmons (Chelsea Cook). Cook brought a believable innocent charm to the storyline as a poised and expressive performance amidst a cast of “loony,” but interesting characters.

Although a cast small in numbers, they were large in heart. Many members of the ensemble doubled their roles, and while the commitment was there, the characters were not always believable, some performers lacked in energy, and several comic lines were dropped due to unclear diction or missed cues. However, many characters recovered from flubs quickly and were able to work off of one another for a plausible performance.

The costumes by Chelsea Cook ranged from concise and simple, to elegant and elaborate, and all were exceptionally done. Even though the set was sometimes unsteady, and set changes were long and difficult, the set pieces were functional and appropriate.

From the first mention of the cute invisible “Pooka”, a fairy spirit in animal form, to the final bows, Home School ITS made sure the “invisible” character was very memorable. The actors persevered to the very end, showing everyone that “one cannot have too many friends” — imaginary or otherwise.

"Harvey" will continue next weekend on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 10 and 11 at 7 p.m. and also Sunday, Feb. 12 at 2 p.m. All performances are at Theatre on the Run, Arlington Virginia. For more information, see www.starcompany.org