BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A veteran ensemble almost brings to life the 6 foot (possibly 6 and half) white rabbit “Harvey” this weekend at Old Fort Players in Fort Madison.
With less than a week to go before the curtain opens on the production sponsored by Scotts MiracleGro, the show is shaping up to be a funny and entertaining couple of hours for area theater fans.
Jim French portrays the affable Elwood P. Dowd, whose main zest for life can be found on a bar stool and answering to his sister Veta’s every whim. “Having a wonderful time wherever he is, and with whomever he’s with.”
But French befriends the “Puca” with fur and big ears and it seems to be that the big spirit is benevolent except for a few gags and a bit of a game of hide and seek.
French is comfortable in the role, made famous by Jimmy Stewart in 1950, and is even more comfortable in letting people believe he is, or maybe going, insane.
As his sister Veta, played with passion by Karen Shumaker, tries to get him committed to Dr. Chumley’s Rest sanitarium, the wealthy Elwood moves around this early 1940s west coast community looking for people to spend time with.
In the meantime, Chumley, played by OFPs Jim Posz, rigorously tries to track down Elwood and to get him on medication and in residence.
The sanitarium unwittingly scoops up Veta and the resulting trauma is laughable, litigious, and just a tiny lewd. Dr. Sanderson is played by the very capable Jonathan Robbins, who’s only been in two OFP productions, but shows confidence in his character.
Veta’s daughter Myrtle Mae has grand designs on Elwood’s mansion if her mother gets control of the estate. She pressures Veta to commit Elwood, with surprisingly little regard for the validity of the white rabbit.
Elwood has a taste for romance and zeal for women and puts the moves on most of the female cast including Dorothy Schulte, who plays a dual role as Dr. Chumley’s wife and Mrs. Chauevent. French also pursues the sanitarium’s Nurse Kelly, who has a crush on Sanderson.
Mark Philip steps back onto the stage for his ninth appearance for OFP and plays Judge Gaffney, who works the legal angles to protect Veta’s interest, wants to sue the sanitarium, and gets swept up in all the action.
Robbie Phillips is the wisecracking, no-nonsense right hand man to Dr. Chumley, but finds himself less obsessed with finding a crazy man, and more obsessed with a certain nurse (and real life wife), played by Lea Phillips, who handles herself very well in her first time on the playhouse stage.
Ty Clute stumbles back to the stage and is sure to provide additional laughs as the cabbie.
The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday with 2 p.m. shows on Sunday and runs Feb. 15-17 and 22-24. Contact the playhouse at 319-372-9559 for tickets or visit www.oldfortplayers.com, or visit the playhouse Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/oldfortplayers/.