Winter play stars a 6-foot rabbit … but you’ll never see him

Almost everyone had an imaginary friend when they were little. You could drink fake tea with them, talk to them about problems, or even try to take over the world together. But few could ever imagine a 6-foot, white bunny named Harvey as their best friend.

Harvey, the Pulitzer-prize winning play by Mary Chase, first came onto the scene in 1944 on Broadway and has been a classic ever since. This year, Kettering Fairmont High School has decided to take on the challenge of performing this play during the winter season.

Fairmont teacher and winter play director Darren McGarvey is an old and new face since he taught at Fairmont from 1997 through 2000. After Fairmont, he taught at Lakota East  for three years before moving to Chicago to pursue his writing career. About a year ago, he moved back to Dayton, where he started teaching writing classes. He began teaching part-time at Fairmont again last fall, but when a full-time position became available this semester, he was excited to take the job.

And why did McGarvey choose Harvey for the winter play at Fairmont? “I picked it during the time I was just searching for a play. I was listening to the radio and I heard about Steven Spielberg remaking the movie Harvey and it just struck me. It was one of the first plays I remember seeing, and I think it’ll do really well,” he said.

The cast and crew are working week in and week out to perfect the performance of Harvey. “So far we’ve been chunking away at it. Each week presents its own unique challenge,” McGarvey said. “One week it’s memorizing the lines and the next week it’ll be incorporating the blocking (movements) into the play; but every week we’re doing something different.”

The play follows a unique storyline based around a man whose best friend happens to be a 6-foot rabbit named Harvey that nobody else can see. Because of those somewhat odd circumstances, his family wants him committed to an asylum.

The main character in the play is Elwood P. Dowd, the man who sees the rabbit.  Senior Jay Kain is looking forward to bringing Dowd to life on the Fairmont stage. “I’m extremely excited to be able to portray one of the most unique characters in theater,” he said. “It’s definitely one of the favorite roles that I’ve ever gotten the chance to play.”

Kain also likes playing Dowd because of the challenges it brings to the table. “The character is obviously an outsider and is totally different from the social norm of society. A man who has a rabbit as a best friend is matchless to most of the other roles around,” he said.

Another main character is Veta Simmons, played by senior Allie Dyer. Simmons is Elwood’s social-climbing sister who comes to live with him and is fearful of his odd behavior. “So far, the play is doing great. We’re all getting along so wonderfully, and we’re really putting our best foot forward in order to put on the best play we can,” she said.

McGarvey thinks the play itself will reach all audiences. “This is the play that everyone will enjoy. Students will think it’s clever and love the humor it brings. Teachers and parents will like it because it’s funny and has a great storyline,” he said. “Even grandparents are going to enjoy it because of the depth of the story and the fact that Harvey’s been around for a while.”

The play will be performed on Feb. 4, 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m. at Kettering Fairmont High School’s auditorium. Tickets are $5 for students and senior citizens and $7 for adults. If you buy a ticket at lunch during school Feb. 1-4, you will be entered into a drawing for a $25 gift certificate to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner and a show. Also, you can reserve a ticket now by calling McGarvey’s voicemail at 299-2460.

Dyer is sure that audiences are going to have fun at the play. “If you come to see Harvey, you’re going to like it,” she said. “I guarantee it.”