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Theater Review: 'Harvey' -- 3.5 stars

Jim Parsons, Angela Paton, Jessica Hecht and Tracee

Jim Parsons, Angela Paton, Jessica Hecht and Tracee Chimo in a scene from "Harvey" (Joan Marcus) Credit: Jim Parsons, Angela Paton, Jessica Hecht and Tracee Chimo in a scene from "Harvey" (Joan Marcus)

3.5 stars

Although Mary Chase's classic comedy "Harvey" is still performed by high schools and community groups, Scott Ellis' highly enjoyable revival for the Roundabout Theatre Company marks the play's first Broadway production in more than 40 years.

This is probably the result of Jimmy Stewart's indelible performance in the 1950 film version. How many contemporary actors have the guts to compete against his memory?

Enter Jim Parsons, who's received two Emmy Awards for his brilliant work play self-loving, socially awkward geek Sheldon Cooper on "The Big Bang Theory." He made his Broadway debut last season with a supporting role in "The Normal Heart."

In an effortless and charming performance, Parsons is wonderful as Elwood P. Dowd, the happy-go-lucky, very caring barfly whose best friend is Harvey - a 6-foot tall rabbit that only he can see.

Elwood's condition causes nonstop aggravation for his fashionable sister Vera (Jessica Hecht), who attempts to lock Elwood up in a mental asylum. But things go awry when Vera is committed instead of Elwood, leading to a frantic search for Elwood.

In retrospect, it's hard to believe that "Harvey" won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize over Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie." Even so, "Harvey" remains a well-crafted, cute play with a terrific leading role, an invisible supporting character and a good deal of psychological dimension.

Parsons' Elwood is not unlike a sweet and innocent child who is far more likable and trustworthy compared to the overstressed, often silly adults around him.

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