Good luck snagging a ticket for the upcoming final weekend of Theatre Arlington’s revival of Mary Chase’s sweet n’ strange 1944 comedy ”Harvey”. It’s a solid, well-timed production that features B.J. Cleveland as Elwood P. Dowd in the last show during his stint as TA’s artistic director. (He will continue to collaborate there as a contract artist). The show also offers him a chance to go toe-to-toe with veteran performer Shirley Orr as his fretful, somewhat cold-blooded sister Veta, the role which earned the indomitable Josephine Hull an Oscar in the 1950 film version. Orr appeared in the very first Theatre Arlington show back in 1973 (the troupe was then known as The Potluck Players), and she can still deliver lines like “Get away, white slaver!” and “You’ve got a lot to learn, Myrtle Mae, and I hope you never learn it!” with polished vigor. The overwhelming success that this run of “Harvey” has enjoyed reflects the spirit of community theater at its best.
I’ve never been a big Jimmy Stewart fan except for his work in Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” and “Vertigo.” I’ve always felt there was a busy, distracting, too-eager-to-please effort in the “effortless” charm of his persona and his performances (they soon became indistinguishable to me). Still, it’s nearly impossible for any able performer to screw up playwright Mary Chase’s ”Nobody ever brings anything small into a bar” speech, and Stewart delivers admirably. (BTW, Steven Spielberg is threatening to remake “Harvey” as his next project. Will the corporate theater chains offer “Exorcist”-style vomit bags for diabetic audiences?).