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Adobe Theater presents whimsical fantasy ‘Harvey’

Micah Linford plays Elwood P. Dowd, and Paula Dunlap is Betty in "Harvey."

Micah Linford plays Elwood P. Dowd, and Paula Dunlap is Betty in “Harvey.”

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Elwood P. Dowd may be a delusional drunk, but he is also happier, less neurotic and more content than the people around him.

“Harvey” is a whimsical fantasy about a drunk’s 6-foot-3 imaginary bunny buddy. The play was a smash hit (and a Pulitzer Prize winner) on Broadway in 1944, followed by an Oscar-winning film in 1950.

The Adobe Theater production opens on Friday, Aug. 23. The play runs on weekends through Sept. 22.

Harvey is a “pooka,” a Celtic spirit, a benign but mischievous creature who is especially fond of social outcasts.

“(Elwood) uses this rabbit to make friends with people, ” director Nancy Sellin said. “It’s his best friend; he even buys him beer tickets.”

Elwood goes so far as to claim Harvey possesses the ability to stop time.

“He walks around telling the rabbit to stand up and sit down, and he introduces it to people,” Selling continued. “It’s funny to see their reactions.”

Elwood is a wealthy tippler whose sunny philosophy and inebriated antics are tolerated by most of the citizenry.

Although everyone is certain that Elwood has finally lost his mind, Harvey’s presence begins to have magically positive effects on the townsfolk, with the exception of Elwood’s sister Veta.

A snooty socialite, Veta is determined to marry off her daughter Myrtle to someone equally respectable. Elwood’s lunacy is interfering with her upscale plans.

Frustrated, Veta tries to commit her brother to an asylum. When she admits she sometimes sees Harvey, too, they lock her up instead.

“It’s a comedy of errors,” Sellin said. “You suspend disbelief, and you believe they’re seeing this rabbit.”

The play becomes an allegory of tolerance. Throughout it all, Elwood maintains his kindness mixed with a generosity of spirit.

As a doctor threatens Elwood with an injection to make Harvey disappear, a cabbie finally pierces Veta’s shell.

Noting that when patients enter the sanitorium, they talk about enjoying the sun and the birds, he notes the drug will make him into a “perfectly normal human being, and you know what bastards they are.”

“Harvey” stars Micah Linford in the title role, with Carolyn Hogan as Veta.

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