Arts and Entertainment

We’re All in Harvey’s World

After the grand success of STC’s fall musical Anastasia and also its surprisingly comedic winter drama Arsenic and Old Lace, the production of its spring comedy upheld the great expectations from its audience.

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After numerous reported sightings of an ominous, six-foot-three-inch tall bunny freely roaming the hallways and half-sleep-deprived theater kids wearing peculiar bunny ears in classes, students followed the ears down to STC’s spring comedy Harvey in the Murray Kahn Theater on May 30, 31, and June 1. Each night, following a warm welcome and prologue from executive producer Vanessa Chen, dressed in bunny ears herself, the audience could already feel that they were in for quite a show. 

Harvey has a small cast size, featuring only twelve actors. It takes place in the 1940s and is a story that is centered around a ‘perfect’ gentleman, Elwood P. Dowd (Ada Gordon), and his invisible six-foot-three-inch tall rabbit friend, Harvey (David Glick). Elwood introduces Harvey around his town until his dismayed sister, Veta Louise (Audrey Hilger), and her daughter, Myrtle Mae (Jane No), visit his home and become determined to commit Elwood to an infirmary. The mother and daughter meet Dr. Sanderson (Bowden Chen) and the nurse Ruth Kelly (Dale Heller) to plan to have him committed. In the process, however, after a brief discussion between Veta and head doctor William Chumley (Amanda Greenberg), Chumley becomes convinced that it is Veta, not Elwood, who is hallucinating. He apologizes to Elwood, lets him leave freely, and fires Dr. Sanderson. Soon, Chumley realizes that he was mistaken, and everyone goes searching for Elwood to cure him with an injection. In the meantime, a romance blossoms between Dr. Sanderson and Nurse Kelly, and Myrtle develops a crush on the sanitarium’s strong-arm attendant, Duane Wilson (Sasha Ruinsky). Once Elwood is located and is brought into the infirmary to be injected, Veta finds out the treatment would alter Elwood’s personality altogether and changes her mind. She realizes her brother, through all his Harvey shenanigans, is fundamentally kind, and she decides she would rather stay with him and accept Harvey than live with a brother she never knew.

Although the comedic aspect of the Harvey comedy was exhibited through a select number of cast members, the show created a near-perfect blend of drama and humor and one that many audience members found appealing. The cast performed infused with energy, and all actors hit the tone of their respective characters. Glick’s role as Harvey was portrayed mostly from the audience, as he sat in the middle of the audience, his tall head carving out a rabbit-ear-sized silhouette. It was as if it was still only a rumor that he’d be featured at all. 

It was not just Glick who committed fully to the bit, though; it was clear that the cast for this show was giving it their all, knowing it would be the last production of the 2023-24 school year. Sophomore Sofia Lawrence has become a notable sensation and familiar face on the Stuyvesant stage. Each one of her appearances is filled with power that distinguishes her as a remarkable performer, and Harvey was no different. Her portrayal of Mrs. Ethel Chauvenet, a 65-year-old elite woman of the town, was packed with energy. Perhaps the power she imbues in her voice is what makes her stand out most. One of the main comedic aspects of the show was highlighted through the chemistry between juniors Bowden Chen and Dale Heller. From the moment they appeared on stage as doctor and assistant to the moment of their shocking transition into a relationship, every moment between the two made the audience laugh. Their time together on set ultimately culminated in a passionate kiss onstage. From that point onwards, the characters were mostly coming out of the backstage door and making occasional appearances, coming out with messier hair, makeup, and clothes with each re-entry on set. 

Another developing relationship between the characters of junior Sasha Ruinsky and sophomore Jane No also exhibited many comedic moments, mainly through Ruinsky’s portrayal of one too many moments of brute masculinity towards No. Outside of the often-seen main cast, though not overlooked, sophomore Henry Santos Hendricks and freshman Jaydon Mei had stellar portrayals of Judge Gaffney and taxi driver E.J Lofgren, respectively. Both of these characters were known by their profession and role within the community. Both Hendricks and Mei made it apparent that they adapted their own personalities to bring out the best in their characters and truly get the audience to sympathize with them. Without a doubt, though, the most notable standout in the cast was sophomore Ada Gordon. Her performance was dynamic; she was first a hallucinating man, then a man greeting everyone with an almost fictional sense of kindness, and finally became a true gentleman who wants to see the best for those around him. Gordon’s demeanor on stage made it easy for the audience to root for her, and truly consider the fact that Harvey may not have been so imaginative after all.

With weeks of ominous promotions through the effective use of Glick’s Harvey, STC intrigued a wide audience, ranging from students to theater play enthusiasts and beyond, to watch Harvey. With seven technical crews in total (art, costumes, hair and makeup, props, stage, tech, and, most notably, lights and sound) to set the stage and create the foundations for its cast members to perform, STC has put on another astounding show this season. The lights and sound crew was especially on point during the show. This can most likely be attributed to both the lights director, junior Abigail Jin, and sounds director, junior Christopher Choe, and their past exposure to the theater booth for 10 past Stuyvesant shows and developing ways for their crew to improve their coordination with performers on stage. Harvey featured a very minimal number of volume fluctuations in the mic system and a perfect palette of colored lighting, which amplified the mood of each scene in the comedy. Beyond that, the cast was brilliant, and the crews all put in visible effort even while being in the midst of AP testing season. It was especially impressive that they were able to accomplish all this within 10 hours of allotted set-building in lieu of the usual 40. All in all, STC’s Harvey was a comedy full of laughs, brimming romance, and everything in between, making it a joyful watch for the audience.

End of an Era

The 2023-24 season for STC has been an astounding one. With Anastasia breaking more barriers and records than ever thought possible, Arsenic and Old Lace redefining the potential of a winter drama following a popular fall musical, and Harvey reinstating STC’s integral role within the Stuyvesant community, the passions of this year’s senior executive producers, August Petry and Vanessa Chen, and creative genius of the technical coordinators, Petra Dijur and Daniel Murdoch, have made STC go beyond its limits and create a new standard altogether. Although uncertain about the future of STC, the trio of this year’s productions will most certainly be one that goes down for the ages and be a season to remember forever.