Harvey

Bill Peiffer and Mike Kelly in Playcrafters' "Harvey."

CAPTURED MOMENT PHOTOS

Playcrafters has cinched a winning trifecta with "Harvey."

The combination of fine acting all around, outstanding direction and well done, classic material make it among the company's best.

Leading that charge is the charm of Mike Kelly as Elwood P. Dowd, the polite and over-friendly gentleman who happens to see a 6-foot-1½-inch rabbit that no one else does.

Kelly's genteel manner and stage presence make him an ideal fit for Elwood, especially in the way he conducts himself around his invisible co-star, the title character.

His talent is matched by theater veteran Patti Flaherty, who has a heyday as Elwood's sister, Veta, whose drive to have him committed steers most of the show.

It's a credit to Flaherty's talent to see Veta's pomposity pin-pricked and deflated throughout the show, beginning with putting on airs for a society grande dame (Susan Perrin-Sallak, in a small but charming role) through being committed at the same sanitarium where she hopes to put away her brother.

Other character highlights come from Bill Peiffer as the head of the sanitarium, who becomes Elwood (and Harvey's) drinking buddy; Stephanie Moeller as a winsome nurse; Brant Peitersen as a sometimes-goofy, sometime-tough guy orderly; and Pat Flaherty, excelling as the judge who is Elwood's guardian.

Newcomers shine here as well, including Mattie Gelaude, sweet and a bit diabolical as Elwood's niece; and Ethan Johnson, as a caring young doctor. (Johnson, it should be noted, is a student at Moline High. It's always impressive to see high-schoolers playing adult roles, and holding their own opposite veteran performers.)

James Fairchild's deft direction is evident throughout, with a breezy pace yet keeping some of the underlying themes intact. There are a couple of lulls late in each act, but they fortunately don't last long.

There are only two settings for the story, with the waiting room of the "rest home" downstage and the Dowd library upstage. The latter is beautifully painted with a rich pine green. Speaking of painting, special kudos to actress-artist Sara Nichole Wegener, for her portrait of Elwood and Harvey.

The convictions of Kelly-as-Elwood, and even some special effects with sound and lighting, make you fully expect ol' Harv was going to show up at the curtain call.

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