I did something Friday night that I have never done before. I attended a performance at Center Stage Theater at St. Charles Community College.
I arrived with my two children—my 10-year-old daughter, who was bright-eyed and slightly excited, and my 13-year-old son, who like a normal teenager, appeared put-out and bored.
The show was Harvey, a play written in 1944 by Mary Chase that became the 6th longest running play in Broadway history. She received the Pulitzer Prize in drama for writing Harvey. The play was made into a movie in 1950 with James Stewart playing Elwood P. Dowd and Josephine Hull playing Veta Louise.
I fell in love with live theater in college and became a big fan. I am not versed enough in the performing arts to be considered a worthy critic. I simply enjoy it. That is just fine with me. As you will see in my summation, someone much more worthy than I to be the critic was attending the show.
Like I said in the beginning, I have not attended a play at Center Stage Theater before. Without knowing what to expect, I admit that I assumed the cast would be made up of all St. Charles Community College students. That was not the case.
Although several of the cast members were students at SCC (Joshua Kaestner played the part of of the Cabbie; Emily Siorski played Mrs. Chauvenet; Tami Simon played Mary the Maid; and Jordyn Wofford who convincingly played the part of Myrtle), others were previous students (Samantha Bonomo played Nurse Kelly and Rebecca Loughridge played Veta Louise). Still others were lifelong performers; there not because of a desire for stardom but because they love to be on stage.
Rebecca’s performance of Veta Louise was outstanding. She was very convincing in comically portraying Veta Louise’s ambiguity regarding her brother, Elwood. Ah, Elwood. Elwood P. Dowd. Mr. Dowd was portrayed by Paul James. Having grown up watching Elwood played by one of my favorite actors, James Stewart, I was trying very hard not to bring high expectations to whomever played the part of Mr. Dowd.
I had nothing to worry about. Paul played the part excellently. He was Elwood P. Dowd in every way. The smiles, the facial expressions, the genuine belief in a Pooka. It was all there.
In many ways, I preferred this performance to the 1950 movie. For example, Josephine Hull’s facial expressions were priceless onscreen as Veta Louise. But Rebecca Loughridge used her entire body, stage, and article of clothing she wore to express Veta Louise’s comical struggles of helping find a suitable caller for her daughter Myrtle in the midst of Elwood’s friendship with a 6 foot-tall white rabbit.
But in my opinion, the best person that I think you, the reader, should hear from in regards to the quality of this performance is not me. It’s my teenage son.
He loved it. He admitted that he arrived expecting to be bored. But he was not. I even saw him sitting on the edge of his seat, laughing, waiting for the next gag to fall perfectly.
I think that pretty much sums it up. The folks at The Center Stage did such a great job with a play written in 1944 that a 13 year-old boy enjoyed it. I don’t think you can do much better than that.
I would be remiss if I did not mention two other performers. My son’s favorite was Wilson, played by David Smithson. While Rebecca played Veta very well, Veta’s onstage interactions with Dr. Chumley (played wonderfully by Justin M. Spurgeon) added an extra special touch to the show.
Also, the set design was seemingly simple yet showed it’s complexity as each of the three parts revolved 180 degrees to change from the scene of the Dowd residence to Chumley’s Rest, the sanitarium. The costumes were great as well. They were in every way reminiscent of the period.
So, Center Stage Theater, well done! I will be back. And instead of having two kids in tow, they will most likely be leading me into our seats.