BY DOROTHY SCHULTE
Old Fort Players
FORT MADISON – “Harvey,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy was also a hit movie starring Jimmy Stewart in 1950. The stage play by Mary Chase, is the story of a perfect gentleman, Elwood P. Dowd, and his best friend, Harvey — a pooka, which is a six and a half-foot tall, invisible white rabbit. When Elwood begins introducing Harvey around town, his embarrassed sister, Veta Louise, and her daughter, Myrtle Mae, determine to commit Elwood to a sanitarium. A mistake is made, however, and Veta is committed rather than Elwood! Comedy ensues when the mistake is realized and a frantic search begins for Elwood and the invisible pooka. Will Veta ever understand that she can love her brother and his invisible best
friend just as they are?
The cast called for six men, five women and one very tall invisible white rabbit in the title role. After the initial casting of Harvey, the first actor walked off the production citing artistic differences with the director, Shelley Dowling. But a general SOS was sent out to pet stores, local vets and petting zoos. Luckily Easter is late this year, so there were plenty of out-of-work rabbits to choose from. It wasn’t long before the role was filled with a more amiable candidate. “Everybody gets along much better with the
new guy even though he’s a bit of an exhibitionist,” Co-Director, Angela Sanford told us. “He was apparently once a nude model … for Beatrix Potter.”
Local musician, Jim French, who will play Elwood, is no stranger to the stage, but this is his first leading role. French quickly set the bar high when showed up to the second rehearsal with Act One memorized.
“That’s impressive,” Director Shelley Dowling was overheard to say. “Can we get everybody to do that?”
OFP veteran actor, the talented Karen Schumaker (Arsenic & Old Lace, Exit Laughing) is cast as Elwood’s sister Veta. Diana Wilson (Bleacher Bums) will play Myrtle Mae, Elwood’s long-suffering niece. Jim Posz (Something Special for Christmas & It’s A Wonderful Life) plays Dr. Chumley and Dorothy Schulte (Dial M for Murder, If The Shoe Fits) has been cast as his wife, Betty. She will also fill the role of Mrs. Chauvenet, Elwood’s aunt. Mark Philp (Opal Is A Diamond, Bleacher Bums) portrays Judge Omar Gaffney.
The employees of Chumley’s Rest Sanitarium are played by Robbie Phillips (Bleacher Bums) as Wilson and newcomer Lea Phillips as Nurse Kelly. Jonathon Robbins (Dividing Tree) will portray Dr. Sanderson. Rounding out the cast is OFP Board President, Ty Clute (Barefoot in the Park, Dial M for Murder) who will play the Cab Driver as well as supervise the construction of the set. Xandra Abel will help out as Junior Director with John Jannusch handling Sound & Lights. Cindy Swinderman is return to OFP to once again work her behind-the-scenes magic as Stage Manager.
“Harvey” co-sponsored by Scotts Miracle-Gro, will be presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Services, Inc. Performances run February 15-17 & 22-24. Evening shows begin at 7:30 and the curtain rises on Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets for adults are $12, and students are $8. They are available on the theater website as well as at the door. Pookas get in free.
Old Fort Players has been entertaining the community since 1981 and is located in downtown Fort Madison at 725 Avenue G. Call 319-372-9559 for more information. Like them on Facebook or visit www.oldfortplayers.com to keep up with everything that’s going on at the theater.