Elwood (Ken Hawkley) reads a Jane Austen book to Harvey the invisible pooka (playing himself). “Harvey” runs at The Drama Group between Dec. 8 and Dec. 15. (Provided photos)
Entertainment, Feature

Homewood residents taking leading roles in Drama Group’s ‘Harvey’

Elwood P. Dowd has a special friend, Harvey, a 6-foot white rabbit who is ever present (in his imagination). Elwood has a loving sister, Veta Louise, who wants to believe him. She confesses to sometimes seeing Harvey.

Bringing a story like that to life for the Drama Group is the job of two Homewood residents. Ken Hawkley, portraying Elwood, is ready to convince the audience that he and Harvey are just fine, thank you. Suzanne Ashlock, starring as Veta Louise, is ready to bring laughs to the audience as the play brings to life the familial love between brother and sister.

Elwood (Ken Hawkley) reads a Jane Austen book to Harvey the invisible pooka (playing himself). “Harvey” runs at The Drama Group between Dec. 8 and Dec. 15. (Provided photos)
Elwood (Ken Hawkley) reads a Jane Austen book to Harvey the invisible pooka (playing himself). “Harvey” runs at The Drama Group between Dec. 8 and Dec. 15. (Provided photos)

The troupe for this Drama Group production, opening Friday, Dec. 8, has been in rehearsal for about six weeks working with director Tony Labriola.

“We’re honing, we’re polishing and gettin’ it together,” Ashlock said. “I have every confidence it’s going to be a wonderful, wonderful production.”

Hawkley has been involved with Drama Group since 2018. He’s been a cast member and part of the production crew for a number of shows. Hawkley remembers Jimmy Stewart in the movie “Harvey” and two made-for-TV movies and decided, “If that’s what’s involved, I could do that.”

But working with an imaginary partner? Hawkley says he’s got it down.

Hawkley relates how Elwood came to befriend Harvey.

“He (Elwood) just ran into him, and I think he is the kind of person who believes in people, and believes in goodness and he also, I think, has a very fertile imagination, but he seems to have really seen this rabbit. I don’t know why Harvey picked him up,” Hawkley says.

“In my mind, he doesn’t imagine Harvey. Harvey is very much there. He can hear him, he can see him, they go drinking together. They meet people and some of the people have seen Harvey as well. I know he’s in the room.”

Hawkley considers Harvey to be a pooka, a mythological rabbit from Irish folklore. While some pookas are mischief makers, Hawkley says “Harvey likes to help people, likes to make friends and that is some of the old tradition.”

Cab driver E.J. Lofgren (Jeff Ashlock) tells Veta (Suzanne Ashlock) what her brother, Elwood, will be like after he gets "the cure."
Cab driver E.J. Lofgren (Jeff Ashlock) tells Veta (Suzanne Ashlock) what her brother, Elwood, will be like after he gets “the cure.”

Ashlock has been with the Drama Group since 2015, starring in and directing productions. The retired high school theater teacher, who has directed “Harvey,” will take on the role as Veta Louise. She grew up watching old movies and has admired Jimmy Stewart and his co-star Josephine Hull who won an Oscar for her performance in the 1950 movie “Harvey.”

Ashlock’s husband, Jeff, also has a role in the play as E.J. Lofgren, has been helping her rehearse her lines. She will portray Veta Louise as an off-the-wall character.

“She is all over the place. She’s funny, she’s adorable, she’s crazy. It’s one of the kinds of roles that I’ve always wanted to play. It is a lot of work, a ton of work but it’s such an enjoyable company and Tony’s a wonderful director,” Asklock said.

Veta Louise tries to get her brother Elwood help for his delusions, but the tables turn and she’s the one placed in the sanitarium.

“They put me in and let Elwood out! It’s in the genes I guess, because she does admit that she sees Harvey occasionally,” Ashlock said. “One of the things is, she loves her family so much. That’s one thing that changes. At the end of the show she loves her brother so much that she doesn’t want him to change, and she accepts him and Harvey because she loves her brother.”

The Drama Group presents “Harvey” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 8 and 9, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 10. Additional performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 14, 15 and 16, with matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 16, and Sunday, Dec. 17.

The Drama Group has an online ticketing service. All tickets are available by going to The Drama Group BookTix website dg.booktix.com, Or you may contact the Box Office at 708-755-3444. Tickets are $25 for adults, $23 for senior citizens and members of the military, and $19 for students.

While masks are no longer required under COVID-19 protocols, guests are encouraged to wear masks while at the performance.

A drop box for donations for the South Suburban Humane Society will be in the lobby.

The Drama Group receives support from the Illinois Arts Council Agency through funding provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. The Drama Group is a member of Southland Arts, one of 26 local arts organizations.

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