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THEATER REVIEWS : Miscasting Is the Problem in Pallid 'Harvey' : Director John Astin is disingenuous as Elwood P. Dowd and the rest of the cast work hard but stumble through the La Mirada Theatre production.

April 10, 1993|DON SHIRLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LA MIRADA — The pallid attempt to revive "Harvey" at La Mirada Theatre is no more solid than the play's own giant white rabbit.

Director John Astin was stuck with an unfortunate example of star miscasting--he plays Jimmy Stewart's role himself. Astin as the sweet gentleman whose camaraderie with the invisible bunny Harvey leads to chaos at the local loony bin? No way.

With his sharply angled features and a perpetual glint in his eyes, Astin is one of the last actors who should play Elwood P. Dowd. Try though he may to appear ingenuous, a dis keeps climbing in front of that word ingenuous as we watch him work.

The rest of his cast seems to be working hard as well. In other words, this is no effortless breeze down memory lane.

*

Some of the performances lead one to wonder what ever possessed Mary Coyle Chase to write those lines, and what ever led so many people to lap them up over the decades. For example, the would-be romances here--between Dr. Sanderson (Michael Rothhaar) and nurse Kelly (Carolyn Hennesy) or between the ingenue (Marek Johnson) and the sanitarium attendant (Brad Blaisdell) haven't an iota of credibility.

As the chief shrink, Clement von Franckenstein mumbles too many of his words. S. Marc Jordan hadn't mastered his attorney's lines as of Friday night, a day after opening.

Lynn Milgrim and Lucy Lee Flippin are marginally funnier, as the play's various society biddies. Two sets occupy opposite sides of a turntable, designed by Joanne Trunick McMaster, but both of them are so shallow as to impart a flat look to the entire production.

This rabbit needs some extra carrots--quick, before it croaks.

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