About the Play
November 1, 1944 at the Forty-Eighth Street Theatre, New York City, Director Antoinette Perry, Producer Brock Pemberton
6 women, 7 men
Harvey, both the play and the famous James Stewart film, can be borrowed from most libraries and can be purchased from Amazon and Dramatists Play Service, among other sellers. This play is also anthologized in The Most Popular Plays of the American Theatre: Ten of Broadway’s Longest-Running Plays, Stanley Richards, Stein and Day, 1979 .
All Veta Louise Simmons wants is for her daughter, Myrtle Mae, to have a chance at a decent place in society one day and for her brother, Elwood P. Dowd, to be happy, respectable, and sane. This proves difficult when Elwood’s best friend and constant companion is a six-foot-tall white rabbit named Harvey whom only Elwood can see. After Elwood brings Harvey home and “introduces” him to Myrtle and Veta’s high-society party guests, it is the last straw for Veta, and she decides she must commit her brother to a sanitarium. When she admits a dark secret to the sanitarium's doctor, what follows is a wild chase to lock both Veta and Elwood away as “Harvey” forces everyone involved to question reality and their own sanity.
Written by Mary Chase towards the end of World War II as a way to help the people in her community and country cope with loss, Harvey received critical and popular success from the moment Brock Pemberton agreed to produce it. Centered around a sweet and generous protagonist who escapes, or perhaps embraces, reality through imagination and an acceptance of the magical and miraculous, Mary Chase’s play enchanted audiences who were hungry for humor and hope in the face of war. The 1945 Pulitzer Prize Committee in Drama awarded Harvey the prize for “the original American play, performed in New York, which shall best represent in marked fashion the educational value and power of the stage, preferably dealing with American life.” Although Harvey is about a man who seems delusional or inebriated to his family and friends, it ultimately reinforces the need for optimism and faith in a cynical world--a message that was much needed in America and around the globe in the mid-1940s. The 1950 film version, for which Chase herself wrote the screenplay, starred James Stewart and spread the popular comedy beyond the New York theatre and immortalized its much-loved characters. Because Chase wrote the play in response to a specific time and in a specific culture, some critics say that Harvey is now old-fashioned. However, community and professional theatres continue to bring Elwood P. Dowd and his invisible rabbit to the stage to the delight of audiences of all ages.
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Papatola, Dominic P. “‘Harvey’ hasn’t aged a bit, and the Guthrie’s production is a gem.” Pioneer Press. Digital First Media, 18 April 2016. Web. 9 June 2016.
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Longest-Running Plays on Broadway Reveals a Lot about what it Takes to Survive on the Great White Way." Wall Street Journal (Online), 19 Jul 2013. ProQuest. Web. 6 June 2016.
Harvey : comedy in three acts / by Mary Chase. Chase, Mary, 1907-1981. New York : Dramatists Play Service, ©1944.
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Scenes from the Play
About the Playwright
Born on February 25, 1907 in Denver, Colorado, Mary Coyle Chase grew up immersed in the Irish folktales of her mother’s family. She would later use those legends as inspiration for her fantastical stage plays and novels. After graduating high school, Chase attended the University of Denver and then the University of Colorado before landing a job with the Rocky Mountain News and working as a New Deal National Youth Administration publicity director. It was at Rocky Mountain News--where she wor…
One Play at a Time Participating Universities
Canterbury Christ Church University