'Harvey': Don't mind the invisible rabbit
The season is dead. Long live the season. Now that Broadway has said goodbye to 2011-12 with Sunday's Tonys, next year has officially begun with "Harvey" -- a charming, altogether unimportant but pretty adorable revival of Mary Chase's 1944 Pulitzer-winner about a man whose best friend is an invisible rabbit.
If the term summer stock were not so besmirched with straw hats and desperation, the Roundabout's production, starring the sweetly formidable Jim Parsons, could be thought of as Broadway's excellent summer vacation. Parsons, in a small but significant stretch from the haute-geek he plays on TV's "The Big Bang Theory," does not shirk from creating an Elwood P. Dowd who stands tall yet somehow separate from the long, bright shadow cast by Jimmy Stewart in the 1950 movie.
Director Scott Ellis has surrounded Parsons with an appropriately fine assortment of character actors to play dithering dowagers, dotty psychiatrists and incredulous family members inconvenienced by having a relative talking to a 6-foot-31 / 2-inch invisible white rabbit named Harvey. Especially impressive is Jessica Hecht, much admired in drama, turning into a multileveled, delightfully goofy comic as Elwood's impatient, financially dependent cousin. Watch how her smiles suggest she might cry, while her weeping seems in conflict with her happy face.
Parsons, who showed his serious depth last season in "The Normal Heart," plays Elwood with lovely, benign obliviousness, the curl of a crooked smile and a way of squinting eye contact that particularly connects with women. He has a formal yet intimate relationship with his invisible friend, a mannerly chivalry that extends to lonely strangers, pub mates and loved ones trying to get him committed and take his money.
David Rockwell's handsome set, with its tumultuous painted sky, whisks us on turntables between Elwood's Victorian mansion and the Wedgwood-green sanitarium, while Jane Greenwood's keenly observed costumes are both posh and foolish. Charles Kimbrough, Carol Kane and Larry Bryggman show off a bushel of comic tics as people who believe themselves to be grown-ups. As Chase explains, Harvey -- a Celtic figure of mythology called a pooka -- is "fond of rumpots and crackpots," and this old chestnut is very pleasantly populated with both.
WHERE Studio 54, 254 W. 54th St.
INFO $37-$140; 212-719-1300; roundabouttheatre.org
BOTTOM LINE Broadway's excellent summer vacation