A Rare Rabbit, Indeed: TCT stages classic comedy, ‘Harvey’

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

An invisible friend is better than no friend at all. Elwood P. Dowd was having a hard time until he took a lonely walk that changed his life. Someone came up to him and said, “Good evening, Mr. Dowd.”
Why should it matter that the speaker was a 6-foot, one-and-a-half-inch-tall invisible rabbit?
“He’s very real to me,” said Todd Barnett, who plays Elwood in Tupelo Community Theatre’s “Harvey.” “He’s my best friend. He comes along at just the right time when he’s needed.”
Not everyone is convinced Harvey is good to have around the Dowd home.
Elwood’s sister, Veta, isn’t pleased when Elwood interrupts a gathering and starts introducing everyone to Harvey.
“I’m trying to get my daughter, Myrtle Mae, married because she’s getting rather old,” said Teracia Killian, who plays Veta. “The problem occurs because of my crazy brother, Elwood.”
Unintended problems occur for Veta when she tries to have Elwood committed to a sanitarium.
“Some other characters start seeing the rabbit, too,” said Bobby Geno, who plays Judge Omar Gaffney.

‘Comedy by nature’
The play takes place over the course of one day in the 1940s. Barnett said it’s a family-friendly show.
“It’s a comedy by nature,” he said, “but there are certain melancholy moments.”
Barnett is playing Elwood as though Harvey really exists. He’s been working on his mime skills, so the audience can “see” Harvey, too.
“I do a lot of interaction with him. I’ve done some research about how would I interact with someone who’s invisible. Where would I make eye contact? How would I pat him on the shoulder,” Barnett said. “The more I work on it, the more comfortable I get and the easier it is. I get his coat for him. I open doors for him. I let him go first up the stairs. I really try to treat it like there’s a person there.”
You won’t find a man in a bunny suit to take away all doubt, but there’s a good chance you’ll come to appreciate Harvey as a character by the time the curtain falls.
“It’s a Pulitzer Prize-wining play. It’s one of the most beloved plays to hit Broadway,” Barnett said. “There are some real lessons to be learned for young, old and young at heart.
“Someone who approaches things differently can be the most sane person in the room,” he continued. “It teaches you not to be too quick to pass judgment on anyone.”

Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@journalinc.com.

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