“Tomas and the Library Lady” – Childsplay and “Harvey” – Hale Centre Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ April 9, 2012

EXCELLENT “TOMAS” AT CHILDSPLAY AND DISAPPOINTING “HARVEY” AT HALE CENTRE

“TOMAS AND THE LIBRARY LADY”
Tempe Center for the Arts Studio
Tempe, AZ

And

“HARVEY”
Hale Centre Theatre
Gilbert, AZ

Two diverse theater productions opened this weekend.  Gilbert’s Hale Centre mounts a competent but unexciting staging of the badly dated 1943 Mary Chase comedy “Harvey,” while Childsplay stops touring the insightful “Tomas and the Library Lady” for a local run.

The heart-warming “Tomas and the Library Lady” tells of a young Hispanic boy who is introduced to books by a perceptive Librarian who opens the world to Tomas’ that his migrant worker parents wouldn’t know.  Adrian Hernandez and Elizabeth Polen masterfully play the main roles and others in the story as director David Saar crafts an imaginative staging that creates a magical production for young audiences.

Based on Pat Mora’s book, playwright Jose Cruz Gonzalez tells the thoughtful story.  After Tomas’ family moves from Texas to Iowa so his parents can pick crops, Tomas stumbles upon the local library where he’s introduced to books.  Tomas has been raised on his grandfather’s stories but new stories expose him to a bigger world.  He learns to read and write English while teaching the Librarian Spanish.  It’s simple but it’s so genuine and touching to see what the world offers everyone.  “Tomas and the Library Lady” continues its local run through Sunday, April 15.  For tickets, order online at www.childsplayaz.org.

Grade: B

(4/5)

Mary Chase’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Harvey” is a silly tale about Elwood P. Dowd’s imaginary friend, the six foot rabbit of the play’s title, and the ridiculous antics of the characters in his household.  Dowd’s sister, Veta, hopes to commit him but, by the end, the machinations net a lovable character no one wants to change.

In its day, the play may have enchanted a less demanding, more easily entertained Broadway audience but as “Harvey” creaks along taking an eternity to reach its predictable and none-to-entertaining conclusion, there aren’t many genuine laughs.  On top of the ancient play, which is staging a Broadway comeback next month where it will no doubt flounder and die quickly, the Hale Centre Theatre production drags because a crisper, faster paced, and more energetic staging is mandated.  The cast misses most of the play’s physical shenanigans and delivers the cardboard characters and old fashioned comedy so blandly, it scuttles “Harvey.”  “Harvey” proves the creaky old play has little relevance and no real humor today.  It continues through May 12.  For tickets, call the Hale Centre Theatre box office at 480-497-1181 or order tickets online at www.halecentrearizona.com.

Grade:  D

(2/5)

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