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Letter: 'Harvey' was an antidote to wartime

John Kern, left, and Matthew Conlon appear in

John Kern, left, and Matthew Conlon appear in a scene from "Harvey," the Hampton Theatre Company's 30th anniversary season opener at Quogue Community Hall. The classic Pulitzer Prize winning play runs through Nov. 9, 2014. Credit: Tom Kochie

I read with interest your review of the Hampton Theatre Co.'s presentation of "Harvey" ["Another round with that rabbit," exploreLI, Oct. 29]. This review was clearly written with "bias glasses" on.

The reviewer looked at this play, written in the early 1940s, through the eyes of someone living in 2014.

Newsday refers to "The 1944 Mary Chase comedy dealing with psychosis, alcoholism and the human condition -- little lies we tell each other."

Compare this with the reviews of "Harvey" in 1944, such as that by Joseph Wood Krutch, who wrote in The Nation, "The whole play bubbles with sheer -- as well as astonishingly unhackneyed -- fun." Lewis Nichols praised "its warm and gentle humor," in The New York Times and Newsweek called it "one of the funniest comedies that has been Broadway's luck in a long time."

In today's more cynical world, where we see things in a different perspective, one would never write a modern play in the style of "Harvey," because we don't find it humorous when people imbibe too much alcohol. But in 1944, after our country went through the horrors of World War II, we wanted to laugh and forget the troubles of the day.

In fact, Chase, the daughter of working-class American Irish parents, said that the idea for Harvey came when she saw a neighbor, a middle-aged woman, whose son had been killed in action. "I asked myself," Chase said, "could I ever possibly write anything that might make this woman laugh again?"

Russell K. Weisenbacher, Manorville

Editor's note: The writer plays a character in the current production of "Harvey" at the Hampton Theatre Co.
 

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