NEW ROCHELLE, NY — The student thespians at New Rochelle High School are rehearsing scenes while the sets are being built for the upcoming Theatre Works production of Harvey, the comedy about Elwood P. Dowd and the large, furry friend that only he can see.
The classic play that centers around a six-foot-tall invisible white rabbit was written in 1944 by Mary Chase. But the theater students in rehearsal this week still saw relevance in its playful take on what’s real, what’s imaginary and, ultimately, what’s most important.
“The person who’s considered ‘crazy’ is the only one who shows any humanity or compassion,” said senior Brea Watkins, who plays Mrs. Ethel Chauvenet, during rehearsal this week in the Linda E. Kelly Theatre. “Elwood is the only one who’s pure and wants to have a nice time.”
For senior Rebecca Dubin, who plays Dowd’s sister, the allure of the play is its “ability to entertain the audience and be funny, and still have a really deep meaning.”
Performances are 7:30 p.m. Nov. 16, 17 and 18, with a matinee at 2 p.m. on Nov. 18. Tickets are available at the door: $10 for adults, and $7 for children and seniors.
Many of the 12 cast members and the students building sets and working the lights are from the school’s Performing And Visual Arts Education (PAVE) program. Theater teacher Daniel Browne encourages students to try out different roles in the troupe’s productions, both on stage and off. Junior Antonio “Tony” Corona, head carpenter on Harvey, has come to appreciate working with his hands since beginning set building last year. In the spring production of the musical Wonderful Town, he built sets while acting, singing and dancing in the show. (Exhausting? Sure. But Corona said, “I loved every second.”)
Browne chooses the plays they perform, and felt Harvey was a good fit.
“I like to give actors an opportunity to work on plays that have really good characters,” he said.
Senior Nicholas Baker, who plays the lead role, said he was fascinated by Dowd.
“It was interesting to delve into his character and learn all his quirks,” Baker said.
Browne wants the show to leave the audience members making up their own minds about whether Harvey the invisible rabbit is real. But for Baker, discussing his role as Dowd, there was no uncertainty.
“Of course he is!” he said.