This is a classic of the theater, originally made famous
by Jimmy Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd in the movie version. And to me, this
production by Placer Community Theater is a faithful recreation of the
original. In fact I think it included parts of the script that were cut
from other performances of this play that I have seen.
The recently remodeled and enlarged State Theatre was
almost too big for this show, which I think works best in an intimate
space. But the large stage allowed a well-designed and expansive set,
which was built in such a way as to make easy and quick changes from the
Dowd mansion to the sanitarium.
Ben Harwell was perfect in the role of Elwood P. Dowd,
though the imaginary rabbit (Harvey) is said to be six and a half feet
tall, and Ben is very close to that height already. Harwell was
completely consistent in his characterization of Dowd: wide-eyed,
innocent, over-polite, friendly to everyone – and believably spaced out.
You got a hint of his control of the character when, quoting something
said by Harvey, he abandons Dowd’s gentle, almost child-like voice for
the bass in which Harwell naturally speaks.
The show started with Genevieve Schloesser and Laure
Olson entering as Dowd’s niece and sister. They were annoying from the
start, especially Olson’s whiny voice. Then after a while, it dawned on
me that they were supposed to be annoying. I should add that it seemed
to me that Olson was the hardest working member of the cast, always
maintaining her character. And she was hilarious at the beginning of the
second act when she entered – completely frazzled – after an unwanted
bath at the sanitarium.
The supporting cast played well and really embraced
their roles. My favorites, though, were Nurse Kelly (Melissa Brausch)
and Judge Gaffney (Fred Burks).
The show was full of gentle humor – mostly based on
confusion about who should be the mental patient – and there were cute
comic touches throughout. As I write this, you have only one more
weekend to catch the show and enjoy this pleasant period comedy, as I