The late actor and acting instructor Sanford Meisner once said acting is “behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” Though this quote could apply to just about any theater production, it especially is pertinent to the Hardin County Playhouse’s upcoming production of “Harvey.”
The play centers around the good-natured Elwood P. Dowd, who claims to see a 6-foot tall anthropomorphic rabbit named Harvey. A comedy of errors ensues as Dowd’s family attempts to commit him to a sanitarium for his delusions. The play was written in 1944 by Mary Chase and won a Pulitzer Prize.
The Hardin County Playhouse’s production opens Friday night at the Elizabethtown Community and Technical College’s Science Auditorium. It is director Carrie Rhea’s directorial debut with the theater.
Rhea, who recently moved back to Elizabethtown after working in Charlotte, North Carolina, heavily was active with the playhouse from 2009 to 2015. She said she volunteered for a variety of playhouse productions during this time, providing her talents in acting, makeup, costuming and more.
Rhea said though she was familiar with “Harvey” before being approached to direct, she said she studied several versions of the play online and watched the 1950 film adaption of the play in preparation.
“When I read the script I was sold,” she said.
The production includes a cast of 11 actors and the audition and rehearsal process began in July. Rhea said the play features a “true ensemble cast.”
“Every single character in this show plays a part in Harvey’s evolution,” she said.
Originally a three-act play, HCP’s production will be condensed into two acts. Because of the play’s lengthiness, Rhea said pacing has been a highly-emphasized aspect of her direction.
“This is a show you can’t cut stuff out of to save time or to pair down the story,” she said.
Jeremiah Shilling, who plays Elwood in the production, said Elwood always has been a dream role of his. Shilling said though the play is set in the 1940s, it has a timeless sense of humor.
“A lot of the humor is pretty universal,” he said. “The dialogue, a lot of it is kind of dry humor and then you sell a lot of that with the way people react to it.”
Crystal Packard, who plays Betty Chumley in the production, said this is her first play in about two decades. She said she pursued dramatics in high school but hasn’t performed in theater in recent years because of family responsibilities.
Packard said now that her children are older and more self-reliant, she felt it was a good time to reignite her passion for theater. She said she is a fan of the play’s film adaption and was excited to take part.
Packard said in addition to the laughs, she hopes audiences reflect on some of the play’s themes, such as imagination and empathy.
“We don’t need to change people, we need to see them for what they are,” she said.
Performances take place at 7 p.m. Sept. 6, 7, 12, 13 and 14 and at 3 p.m. Sept. 8 and 15 at the ECTC Science Auditorium. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased in advance by calling 270-351-0577.