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Rossford students find serious side to ‘Harvey’

Fall production teaches lesson in acceptance

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Kyleigh Dehart and Andrew Sabovik, who plays lead character Elwood P. Dowd, rehearse for ‘Harvey’ at Rossford High School. The Pulitzer Prize-winning play became a hit film starring Jimmy Stewart.

THE BLADE/LORI KING
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Rossford High School is staging a production of a tried-and-true Broadway comedy and hit movie that also has a moral to teach.

The Drama Club is performing Harvey, written by Mary Chase. The 1944 Pulitzer Prize-winning play is about good-hearted, eccentric bachelor Elwood P. Dowd, who believes he has an unusual unseen friend: a 6 foot, 3½-inch tall white rabbit known as a mythological pooka whose name is Harvey.

The play runs Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in the high school auditorium. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. A Sunday matinee is at 2 p.m. Regular admission is $10; students and senior citizens are $8.

The play is set in 1944, but the production has moved the time period to 1950, when the hit movie starring James Stewart as Elwood was released, said assistant director Ryan Mahaffey. “Most people associate it with the movie.”

Director Julie Zatko said she choosing Harvey was practical. The rights were affordable, at $100 per performance, and “I have a lot of really good male actors. I wanted a bigger show with more parts.”

She also had another reason: Beneath all the humor is a hard lesson that we should accept good people as they are. This is something that Elwood’s social-climbing sister, Veta Louise, learns after she commits him to a sanitarium to spare herself and her daughter, Myrtle Mae, embarrassment.

Haley Peterson, the senior who plays Veta Louise, said she picked up on this lesson as soon as she read the play. “It’s about how you’re supposed to love people for what they are.”

This becomes clear when Veta Louise changes her mind about curing what she thinks is Elwood’s delusional behavior, she said. “She doesn’t want the sanitarium giving Elwood the shot when she is told it also will change his personality.”

Haley, 17, said she is a seasoned performer in Rossford productions. “I love the play. It’s one of my favorites. I just think of myself as a funny person, and I find comedy easy to do. If somebody misses a line, I can always come up with an ad lib.”

The role of Elwood is played by sophomore Andrew Sabovik. He has been in past productions at the high school but said this is his first leading part. The role is made challenging because his character spends a lot of time alone onstage talking. If the actor fumbles a line, there’s no one there to help him out with a prompt.

“He does a lot with the imaginary rabbit,” the 16-year-old said. He said he rehearses his lines at home alone, adding that he likes Elwood because “he treats everybody with the utmost respect. He’s soft-spoken and patient.”

Ms. Zatko said Andrew brings “a great spirit to his role. He’s like a younger person with an older soul. He’s great for the part.”

Mr. Mahaffey said he has been pleasantly surprised that so many young people are familiar with Harvey.

“I think this is the first time we’ve done a show and [hear] ‘Oh, I love that.’ Even younger people are familiar with it,” he said.

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