Harvey entertains visually, intellectually
Theatre The NHS play, which opens Thursday, features subtle humor and an innovative set design, style switch
When it comes to comedy, the Newberg High School theater department has been hamming it up lately.
Epitomized by its performances of The Servant of Two Masters, both in Newberg and at the Fringe Festival in August, the troupes comedy has leaned heavily on physical humor.
But that will change Thursday, when students will present the first of six performances of Harvey, a play that takes a much more nuanced approach.
This is more interwoven into the script, more subtle comedy, junior co-director Meg Hinson said. It catches you by surprise and is very entertaining.
The story centers around Elwood, a man whos best friend is a tall, white rabbit that no one else can see, and the hijinx that ensue as his unappreciative family tries to avoid embarrassment by holing him up in a sanitarium. Jesse Groat and Matthew Jones will play the role of Elwood in the two rotating casts, with Sarah Lamping and Briana Soumokil taking on the role of his sister, Vita.
What I really love about this character is that hes just so calm and mild mannered, Groat said. Hes just really fun to play, especially with all the energy all the other people have. Everything is so hectic.
The switch in styles has been a challenge for the cast, but Hinson and co-director John Miller, also a junior, believe the actors have adjusted well after a difficult transition.
This has really been stretching us because were not used to playing the joke for all its worth, Groat added. But I think its a really good growing experience.
The technical crew was also stretched in terms of set design, as the play takes place in two distinctly different locales: Elwoods home, where he lives with Vita and his niece, and the sanitarium.
Reed Gibbs chose to tackle the problem as his senior project, designing the set in three separate rotating pieces so that the background can be changed quickly and smoothly.
We have had sets for the back walls, but nothing like this because theres such a drastic change between the house and the sanitarium that I wouldnt be able to think of a way to transition, Groat said. This has been just brilliant. I love it. Ive never really seen it in any shows that Ive seen.
Groat has also been impressed with the take-charge approach of Miller and Hinton, who faced an adjustment of their own as they moved off the stage.
I prefer acting, but directing is still fun, Miller said. When you play a certain part, you focus on your part and how it works, but when you direct, you see how all the different parts, all the different pieces of the play interweave and how everything affects everything else.
The play will be performed at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as well as Feb. 20-22. Tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for students.