Theater lovers who also love food are in for a treat.
Savannah Christian Church is presenting the classic comedy "Harvey" on July 26, 27 and 28 as dinner theater. The menu includes barbecue, baked beans, coleslaw and peach cobbler with ice cream or a chocolate brownie trifle.
The decision to stage "Harvey" was made because it is a good fit.
"I'd seen it at a community playhouse when I was in college and always remembered it having a good story and being really funny," says Wayne Sullivan, who leads Savannah Christian's drama ministry.
"I noticed that there was a lot of media attention given to the recent Broadway revival with Jim Parsons from the TV show 'The Big Bang Theory,'" he says. "It affirmed that 'Harvey' is still relevant and enjoyable to a younger audience, even those who haven't seen the classic film with Jimmy Stewart."
The Pulitzer Prize-winning play was written by Mary Chase. In 1950, it was made into a film that starred James Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd.
Dowd is a lovable man who talks about his friend, Harvey, who he says is a 6-foot rabbit named Harvey. Elwood introduces Harvey to everyone he meets, to the horror of his social-climbing sister, Veta.
As Elwood's behavior becomes increasingly eccentric, Veta decides to have him committed to a sanitarium to spare herself and her daughter, Myrtle Mae, from embarrassment and social scandal. Through a hilarious series of mixups, it is Veta who is committed by the doctors.
IF YOU GO
What: Dinner Theater at The Link presents "Harvey"
When: 6 p.m. July 26, 27 and 28
Where: Savannah Christian Church, 55 Al Henderson Blvd.
Info: Tickets available in advance at Savannah Christian's The Source bookstore, or call 912-925-9657 or go to www.savannahchristian.com
When the truth comes out, a search is on for Elwood and his imaginary friend. Elwood shows up at the sanitarium looking for Harvey, who he says is lost.
The staff is preparing to give Elwood an injection that will turn him into a normal human being when Veta realizes she'd rather have Elwood as the same carefree and kind man he's always been, even if it means living with Harvey.
"The last scene is really very touching," Sullivan says. "It makes you think about your own eccentric family members, the ones who really irritate you.
"Maybe we should choose compassion, choose to love them despite their idiosyncrasies," he says. "In our overly plugged-in time, it's a message we need to hear, and one that this play gets across in a simple, charming and funny way."
Rehearsals have been fun, Sullivan says.
"Our cast is having a great time discovering their characters and all the humorous lines," Sullivan says. "We laughed at the first read-through and continue to laugh at new things they bring to the action of the story."
All the actors are volunteers with varying degrees of theater experience.
"Some have acted professionally, and some have just recently discovered their gifts," Sullivan says.
"There is so much chemistry in this ensemble because these actors train together every week as part of our drama team," he says. "Some have been together for over 10 years.
"They love each other and trust each other and that makes for convincing relationships on stage."
Rehearsals started in the beginning of June.
"The first challenge, which I'm so thankful we've solved, is that 'Harvey' requires two different sets," Sullivan says.
"We have a grand Victorian manor library that transforms in front of the audience to reveal a 1940s sanitarium. We have an amazing team of volunteer set builders and artists who bring their best ideas to this project.
"The second challenge is simply trying to mesh so many schedules together for rehearsals," he says. "July is a busy time with the holiday weekend, family vacations, summer camps, business trips and so on."
The production is family-friendly for ages 8 and older. Dinner is served before the play begins.
"While we may have tickets left to sell at the door, we have had sell-out audiences in the past," Sullivan says. "It's best to get tickets in advance."