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TV’s Jim Parsons Heads Flatline ‘Harvey’ Revival: Review

Jim Parsons as Elwood P. Dowd, whose best friend is a tall rabbit, in "Harvey." The Broadway revival is playing through Aug 4 at Studio 54. Photographer: Joan Marcus/Boneau/Bryan-Brown via Bloomberg

What can you say about a 68-year-old rabbit that died?

Mary Chase’s “Harvey” opened on Broadway in 1944, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and ran four years. The movie starred Jimmy Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd, a pickled bachelor whose best friend is an invisible, 6-foot-3-1/2-inch-tall rabbit that gives the show its name.

The Roundabout revival stars Jim Parsons, of TV’s “Big Bang Theory,” and a fistful of Broadway stage veterans, including Charles Kimbrough, Carol Kane and Larry Bryggman. It’s deadly.

More than the frequent jaunts to watering holes near his Denver townhouse, Elwood’s preoccupation with Harvey scandalizes his live-in sister (Jessica Hecht) and niece (Tracee Chimo). Both are on the make -- the former for social status, the latter for marital status.

To help further their ambitions, sister and niece conspire with a pliant judge (Bryggman) to have Elwood committed to the local nuthouse.

Elwood is a paragon of gentlemanly virtues, if something of a blockhead. “Harvey” anticipated by at least a couple of decades that genre of play (“A Thousand Clowns”) and movie (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”) in which the mentally challenged are revealed as merely different or eccentric and the rest of us are crazy.

Today, the play seems slighter than slight. Director Scott Ellis brings nothing (beyond, perhaps, misplaced faith in the material) to make it pop. The performances range from agreeable (Parsons) to annoying (Hecht, Bryggman). David Rockwell’s oaky townhouse and sterile waiting room sets are lovely, if standard-issue. The result is enervating and hardly up to a Broadway standard.

Through Aug. 5 at Studio 54, 254 W. 54th St. Information: +1-212-719-1300; Rating: 1/2 *

What the Stars Mean:
****        Do Not Miss
***         Excellent
**          Good
*           So-So
(No stars)  Avoid

(Jeremy Gerard is the chief U.S. drama critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Greg Evans on movies and Craig Seligman on books.

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