Maumelle Players to present classic comedy Harvey

Carol Rolf Originally Published April 11, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated April 10, 2013 at 8:47 a.m.
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Carol Rolf

Appearing in the Maumelle Players’ upcoming production of Harvey are, front row, from the left, Janell Rieske as Miss Johnson; Rachel McDonald as Myrtle Mae; Mike Crosson as Elwood P. Dowd with his imaginary friend, Harvey; and Peggy Cromwell as Veta; middle row, from the left, Denise Loken as Ethel Chauvenet; Marcia McCardle as Betty Chumley; and Erica Monday as Nurse Kelly; and back row, from the left, Bill Lambert as E.J. Lofgren; Mike Knabe as Judge Omar Gaffney; Jim Narey as Duane Wilson; Victor Werner as Dr. William Chumley; and Jeff Riggs as Dr. Lyman Sanderson. The play opens Friday at Shepherd of Peace Lutheran Church in Maumelle.

Have you seen Harvey?

If not, the Maumelle Players will have him front and center in their next production by the same name. Harvey, by American playwright Mary Chase, will be presented at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Shepherd of Peace Lutheran Church, 449 Millwood Circle in Maumelle. The comedy will be repeated at 7 p.m. April 19 and 20 and at 3 p.m. April 21.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors 65 and older and children under 16. Tickets are available online at and at the Maumelle Senior Wellness Center, 550 Edgewood Drive.

“This play is for the whole family,” said Victor Werner, who directs the show as well as appears in it. He plays the role of Dr. William Chumley, director of Chumley’s Rest sanitarium. “It’s a lot of fun. I hope a lot of people will come see it.”

Werner is president of the Maumelle Players Board of Directors and is a charter member of the community theater group, which was organized in 2005.

Harvey is about Elwood P. Dowd and his imaginary friend, Harvey, who is a giant rabbit. Elwood’s sister, Veta Simmons, and his niece, Myrtle Mae, have been driven to distraction by his friendship with his imaginary friend, and Veta tries to have him committed to a psychiatric sanitarium for his delusions. A comedy of errors ensues when they arrive at the sanitarium.

Harvey debuted in 1944 in New York City and won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1945. Many know the film version, which started Jimmy Stewart as Elwood.

The local production of Harvey has many veteran actors among its cast, but there are two new faces — Rachel McDonald, who appears as Myrtle Mae, and Janell Rieski, who has the role of Miss Johnson, a maid.

McDonald is a 2010 graduate of Nettleton High School near Jonesboro and appeared in school plays. She now lives in Little Rock and is a nanny.

“Myrtle Mae is very much a teenager,” McDonald said of her character. “She’s pretty rebellious and is tired of being cooped up. She wants more control over her life.”

Werner said Myrtle Mae and her mother are concerned about their standing in the community, especially in light of Elwood’s fascination with Harvey, and are concerned that Myrtle Mae may not be able to find a suitable husband because of the situation.

Rieski has lived in Maumelle for 20 years and is a homemaker. She has been the “prompter” for several plays presented by the Maumelle Players and serves in that capacity for Harvey as well.

“I have only one line in this play,” she said with a laugh. “Since I don’t have any acting experience, I thought I would try out for this small role. Once I get my foot in the door, who knows? Maybe I will try out for other parts, or maybe not.”

Additional cast members in Harvey include the following:

• Peggy Cromwell of Maumelle plays Veta Simmons.

“Anytime they need a crazy female, they call me,” Cromwell said with a laugh. A veteran with the local community theater group, she last appeared as one of the spinster Brewster sisters in Arsenic and Old Lace in May 2012.

“I play the long-suffering sister of Elwood P. Dowd, who loves him but is struggling to tolerate his afflictions, but in the meantime, she gets mistaken for the one who’s conflicted,” she said of her character in Harvey.

“It’s a pretty funny show. The characters are really good. And our sets are always amazing. The creative minds we have are pretty special.”

A retired schoolteacher, Cromwell is working this year in the library of the Episcopal Collegiate School in Little Rock.

• Mike Crosson of Maumelle portrays Elwood P. Dowd.

“I’m having a good time with Elwood,” Crosson said. “It’s tough to follow Jimmy Stewart, but that was the movie version.”

Crosson has been in several productions by the Maumelle Players, the first one being The Odd Couple (female version) in April 2011. He acted in high school and college, as well as in community theater.

Crosson is retired from Union Pacific Railroad.

“I’m still retired,” he said when asked, “and I plan to stay that way.”

• Denise Loken of Maumelle plays Ethel Chauvenet.

“I play a 70-year-old high-society woman who’s known Elwood since he was a boy,” Loken said of her character. “I’m taking up for him.

“Veta and Myrtle Mae are trying to impress me.”

Loken is a stay-at-home mom and is treasurer for the Maumelle Players Board of Directors. She’s helped backstage on several plays and appeared with the local acting troupe in Terror by Gaslight in October 2012.

• Erica Monday of Maumelle is Ruth Kelly, RN.

“Nurse Kelly is very stern,” Monday said of her character. “She doesn’t show her feelings. But after she meets Elwood, she learns to open up a little. She doesn’t see Harvey, but she gets suckered in at times, believing that he sees Harvey.

“This is a fun part,” she said. “It’s a larger part than I’ve had in a while. It’s been fun.”

A longtime actor with the Maumelle Players, Monday is a secretary of its board of directors. She is a physician liaison at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock

• Jim Narey of Conway plays Duane Wilson.

“I play Wilson, a brutish, strong-arm orderly at the mental institute,” Narey said without a hint of a smile, adding, with a smile, “It’s typecasting.

“As always, I’m having fun with it.”

Narey, who is the director of planning and zoning for the city of Maumelle, made his debut appearance with the Maumelle Players in October 2011 when he played a deranged character in Gladys in Wonderland. Since then, he has played similar characters in Arsenic and Old Lace and Terror by Gaslight. He serves as an adviser to the board of directors.

• Jeff Riggs of Maumelle portrays Dr. Lyman Sanderson.

“My character is a good guy, an up-and-coming psychiatrist prodigy who wants to impress his mentor, Dr. Chumley,” said Riggs, who is a financial adviser and ballroom-dance instructor. “My love interest is Nurse Kelly.

“I always thought Elwood was the sane one. It was his sister who was bonkers.”

Riggs has appeared in several plays with the Maumelle Players.

“They’re all fun parts,” he said.

He also is an adviser to the group’s board of directors.

• Marcia McCardle of Little Rock plays Betty Chumley.

“Betty is the wife of Dr. Chumley, very high society and a very friendly woman,” McCardle said of her character. “She’s happy-go-lucky.

“This is a really fun part, but it’s a small part for me, the smallest I’ve had in a long time.”

She last appeared with the Maumelle Players as one of the Brewster sisters in Arsenic and Old Lace.

McCardle works in the public relations department at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

• Mike Knabe of Little Rock is Judge Omar Gaffney.

“I’m the family lawyer and a judge,” he said of his character. “I keep everything legal as far as the commitment goes.

“This is the second time for me to appear with the Maumelle Players. I was in Arsenic and Old Lace, and that was the first time I had been on stage in 40 years. I’m loving it. This is a great group of people to work with.”

Knabe is a social worker at the Arkansas State Hospital.

• Bill Lambert of Maumelle plays E.J. Lofgren, the cab driver.

“He’s pivotal to the whole last scene,” Lambert said of his character. “He’s been driving people to and from the sanitarium for years. If he tells Veta what he’s seen and if he explains it right, she just might change her mind about sending Elwood there.”

Prior to moving to Maumelle, Lambert was director of a community theater in Las Animas, Colo. This is the third play he has done with the Maumelle Players.

Other members of the crew include Matt Patton, assistant director; Eloise Kalb, who is a charter member of the Maumelle Players, creative consultant; Lauren Nicholas, props manager/stage manager; and Adrienne Horton, hair stylist.

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