Thursday night, The Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival of playwright Mary Chase’s 1944 Pulitzer prize winning play "Harvey" opened to an array of reviews, most of them less than flattering. As some may remember, "Harvey" beat Tennessee Williams’ "The Glass Menagerie" to a Pulitzer prize in 1945, a fact that still baffles today, and which the revival doesn't make up for. Roundabout’s "Harvey" stars “The Big Bang Theory” nerd Jim Parsons, who follows in the footsteps of the ineffable Jimmy Stewart, quite large shoes to fill might I add. Parsons stars as Elwood P. Dowd, an amicable alcoholic who claims to be friends with a "pooka," taking the form of a tall, imaginary rabbit whom Elwood calls Harvey. Elwood’s sister, Veta Louise (played by the oddly cast Jessica Hecht), tries to commit Elwood to a sanitarium, but a comedy of errors ensues, changing the family for the better.
The critics vacillate in their opinions of Parsons as Elwood -- he is seen by some as charming, by others as quite lackluster. As for the play, for some critics it does not succeed in bringing to life the big, warm, mischievous and constant friend known as "Harvey." See for yourself, and continue on for what the critics are saying.
"Harvey," directed by Scott Ellis, features Jim Parsons, Jessica Hecht, Charles Kimbrough, Larry Bruggman, Carol Kane, Peter Benson, Tracee Chimo, Holley Fain, Angela Paton, Rich Sommer and Morgan Spector. It runs through Aug. 5 at Studio 54 in New York. Go here for ticket information.
"At "Harvey," there is overacting and under-acting, poor sound quality and endless windups for lame payoff jokes. And it is led by an actor who seems to be completely shorn of any charisma. Parsons, who plays a hard-core physicist nerd on "The Big Bang Theory," has merely transferred his pursed-mouth, vaguely creepy and unsocialized TV character to the stage. With no laugh track. For two hours.”
“Scott Ellis' oddly sluggish production... lurches from scene to scene when it should be bunny-hopping briskly along... The revelation here, aside from David Rockwell's stunning revolving sets, is Parsons. After a promising but tentative Broadway debut last year in A Normal Heart, the preternaturally boyish actor commands the stage in a surprisingly offhanded way. He rivets your attention without any big gestures or look-at-me grandstanding — and without merely delivering a Jimmy Stewart impression. Instead, he captures the essence of Stewart while making an old-fashioned character seem refreshingly modern.”
“As a gentle ode to acceptance and nonconformity, “Harvey” is enjoyable — no more, no less.” Score: 3/5 Stars
“It's thin stuff and difficult to pull off because a lot of the action happens offstage and is merely recounted, but this production has moments, while not really soaring into the absurdist yet warming stratosphere... Meanwhile, this is a decently entertaining, if not transcendent, glimpse into the horror of normalcy.”
“The play regains its firm footing whenever Mr. Parsons’s Elwood is onstage, spreading infectious good cheer amid the chaos he and Harvey leave in their wake. I can’t say I spotted any big white rabbits on my way home from the theater, but I did find myself reflecting that if we could all conjure imaginary companions to help us emulate Elwood’s even temper amid the addling irritations of daily life, the pharmaceutical industry would be in some serious trouble.”
“Mr. Parsons lacks the force of personality necessary to make you wonder whether he might just be onto something. It seems a safe bet that Scott Ellis, the director of this revival, has nudged the other members of the cast in the direction of comic caricature... I wish the production as a whole were sweeter and quieter, but it comes off anyway.”
“Comedy can be deadly. Just a few directorial misjudgments and uh-oh, sudden death: forced laughs, desperate thesps, and an aud growing surlier by the minute. Something like that has befallen the Roundabout's revival of "Harvey”... Jim Parsons aims to charm the pants off us by giving Elwood P. Dowd an air of sweet serenity. But the vacancy behind his bland facial expressions has a chilling effect.”
“He's nothing like Jimmy Stewart ... and that's a good thing for the "Big Bang Theory" star, who brings quirky charm to the Broadway revival of the 1944 comedy about a man and his best friend, an invisible, six-foot-tall rabbit...”