This past Saturday, Allison and I went to see Harvey on Broadway, starring Jim Parsons (of Big Bang Theory fame). Here's an approximation of our conversation on the train ride home:
Liz: Wow, that was really good. I think Jim Parsons was my favorite; his character was basically Sheldon, just way more social.
Allison: Yeah, he did a great job, and his portrayal of Elwood P. Dowd was so engaging! I was surprised to see Carol Kane pop up in one scene, but I couldn't tell if she was acting or just being herself.
Liz: Haha, yeah, I know. She's kind of always like that.
Allison: "Hi, I'm Carol Kane! And I'm playing Carol Kane! I'm wide-eyed and wacky, and you LOVE me!"
Liz: So true! I do love her.
Allison: It's hard not to love Carol Kane, which is why she has the market pegged on being herself. But I think the actress I was most impressed with was Jessica Hecht as Harvey's sister, Veta — those nervous breakdown scenes! Wow!
Liz: Yes! I was cracking up so hard; the second half of the show was better than the first just because of that.
Allison: I feel like sometimes in theater and film, there's a tendency to make even a "breakdown" appear glamorous. And this was definitely not glamorous, which is part of what made it so amazing. We were sitting so close that we could see the tears streaming down her face, and the beads of sweat, and the panic in her eyes... I was like, "Woah, this woman is seriously on the edge right now."
Liz: Haha, yeah, I was really impressed with how crazy she actually looked. Sometimes it's hard to forget that you're watching actors, especially when you're sitting in the second row, but I totally got sucked into this, you know?
Allison: Yeah, definitely! Even though there were those moments — usually right at the beginning and right after intermission — where you're not completely in the action yet, and it's like, "Oh, there's Jim Parsons! There's Jessica Hecht!" Sometimes that lasts a while, or never goes away in the worst case scenario, but in Harvey it was really easy to move beyond that point and into, "Oh, there's Elwood!" or "Oh, there's Veta!"
Liz: Totally. But then when we were giving a standing ovation I was back to being a fangirl, like, OMG, I'm almost eye-level with Jim Parsons!
Allison: Yes, we did have our little fangirl moments, didn't we? And I kind of want to mention more about the curtain call and what made it special, but that might be a little spoiler-ish. Or did I spoil it already? I don't know, so I'm just going to move on to the one thing that INSTANTLY captivated me — the scenery! Oh my god, so lavish. I think when the curtain first rose, my jaw dropped just looking around and absorbing it all. That really helped draw me into the action and move beyond "These are recognizable actors on stage."
Liz: Yes. And then I was trying to figure out whether the whole play was going to take place in these people's living room, and then — BAM — sanitorium. So cool.
Allison: Yeah, you know you're watching a great play when even the transitions are riveting. One of the things that I was left hanging on, though, is that Veta makes several mysterious references as to the turning point that made Elwood is the way he is. I guess that's covered somewhat, but I really wanted to know more.
Liz: Oh yeah!
Allison: And why was Veta always so nervous? And why does her daughter seem so sheltered one moment and so seasoned the next?
Liz: Yeah, I have a hard time when plays or movies just pick up at one point and don't really go back and explain what happened before.
Allison: Those early references to Elwood definitely seemed like a loose end. But on the other hand, it's like the "Lost" syndrome — wanting questions answered, but not wanting the answers you're given. I suppose, in the end, I like being left to guess and imply.
Harvey is playing at Studio 54 in New York, NY, through August 5, 2012. If you're looking to see the show before it closes, check out our Harvey tickets page.