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Local Actresses Fine Tune Roles in Classic Comedy 'Harvey'

GreenMan Theatre Troupe's production of the Pulitzer Prize winning play "Harvey" runs weekends May 2 through May 18.

Betty Chumley (Vicky Giannini) is charmed by Elwood P. Dowd (Chuck Jacobson) in "Harvey" at GreenMan Theatre.
Betty Chumley (Vicky Giannini) is charmed by Elwood P. Dowd (Chuck Jacobson) in "Harvey" at GreenMan Theatre.

By CARL ZEITLER 

When GreenMan Theatre concludes its milestone tenth season with the Pulitzer Prize winning classic Harvey by Mary Chase, with 9 performances from May 2 until May 18, local actresses Vicky Giannini (Chicago) and Dana Peters (Hoffman Estates) will be more than happy to take to the stage as members of the cast.

Giannini, who portrays Betty Chumley in the production, is appearing in her fourth GreenMan show. Her other GreenMan credits include How the West Was Done In, The Matchmaker, and Smoking Gun. Giannini feels at home on the GreenMan stage.

"GreenMan has celebrated me as a human being, an individual, and a performer," Giannini said. I have never felt more embraced with a different group of people (than I do here)."

Peters is appearing in her first GreenMan production. She has appeared in Father of the Bride, Lysistrata, Independence, and Star Spangled Girl at other theatrical venues. Peters, an executive assistant by day who moonlights as a princess at Medievel Times by night, appreciates the work GreenMan does.

"GreenMan seems to put a lot more effort into making the public aware of their performances," she said. "They really want to get some butts in those seats. Pretty organized from what I've seen, which isn't always the case for community theaters." 

Harvey deals with affable Elwood P. Dowd, who introduces his best friend Harvey to anyone he runs across. Much to the chagrin of Elwood's society minded sister Veta, Harvey is an unseen--and presumably imaginary--pooka, or rabbit with human qualities and behavior, that's over 6 feet tall. Veta takes matters into her own hands by initiating Elwood's committment to a local sanitarium so that neither her nor her daugher Myrtle Mae suffer any future embarrassment. 

When Veta arrives at the sanitarium, a comedy of errors develops when young Dr. Sanderson commits Veta instead of Elwood. As this mistake is discovered, Elwood shows up looking for his lost friend Harvey. The mild-mannered Elwood affects the people at the sanitarium, including the sanitarium's director Dr. Chumley and his wife, Betty.

Giannini, who is a theatre major at Dominican University in River Forest, had some definite thoughts about her character.

"I think Mrs. Chumley is goofy," Giannini said. "I haven't gotten the chance to play something that's just plain fun in a while." 

Harvey director Jim Bruner realizes there is deeper significance to the show even with all the comedy.

"Mary Chase, originally known for writing children's books, has given us this poignant play that examines, with brilliant humor, man's struggle with priorities, friendship, and inner peace," Bruner said.

Giannini and Peters are part of a cast that includes Bill Boggs (Elmhurst), Richard Bucchi (Winfield), Denis Duffy (Arlington Heights), Chuck Jacobson (Elmhurst), Jerry Moore (Lombard), Duard Mosley (Elmhurst), Jennifer Price (Burr Ridge), Taylor Sebesta (Elmhurst), Barb Singelmann (Elk Grove Village), and Kim White (La Grange). They have enjoyed bonding with her castmates.

"I found that GreenMan isn't just a theater company," Giannini said. "It is, instead, a family."

Harvey premiered on Broadway on Nov. 1, 1944 and ran for 1,775 performances until Jan. 15, 1949. Chase won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. During the initial Broadway run, James Stewart was one of the actors who portrayed Elwood. He played the role again in the 1950 film. Stewart was nominated for an academy award for this portrayal. Josephine Hull originated the role of Veta on Broadway and played her in the film. Hull won the Academy Award for best supporting actress. Stewart reprised the role twice more; once in a Broadway revival with Helen Hayes as Veta in 1970, and on London's West End in 1975.

Performances for Harvey will be Fridays May 2, 9, 16; Saturdays May 3, 10, 17; Sundays May 4, 11, 18. All performances take place at Asbury Hall at First United Methodist Church at 232 S. York in Elmhurst. Free parking is available. Friday & Saturday performances begin at 7:30 PM; Sunday matinees start at 2 PM. Tickets are $17 for adults and $15 for seniors and students. Tickets are now on sale. Reserve tickets at 630-464-2646 or at the GreenMan Theatre website.  

GreenMan Theatre Troupe has been presenting quality productions in Elmhurst since it was founded in 2003 by Jill Perez, David Soria, and Carole Thorpe. Past productions include “After the End of the World,” “Dracula,” and “Blithe Spirit.” GreenMan also offers classes and workshops for members and the community and welcomes new members and participants in all aspects of theatre production. GreenMan programs are partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. Financial support provided by the City of Elmhurst Community Grant Program.

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