Easter, Passover and spring in general are said to signal a time of renewal, rebirth and joy. It’s also a time to celebrate lasting friendships, even those that aren’t easily visible.
It’s also a time of happiness after a long, harsh winter, a welcome time for sunshine, flowers and bunnies, especially the adorable little white ones that hop around your lawn eating what you’ve just planted, posing as plush cuddlers in Easter baskets, and as beautiful figures expertly and deliciously sculpted by chocolatiers. As a child, this was my idea of renewal, sunshine and pure, pure joy; and as a result, I developed a quick and lasting friendship with the chocolate bunny!
When I was little, the very first thing I wanted to tear out of my Easter basket was a cute solid dark chocolate bunny. Unlike most of my friends, I didn’t like milk chocolate and was horrified by the bunnies that were hollow inside. All I wanted was a nice big chunk of dark chocolate. Did I start with the ear or delicately nibble the feet? Uh-uh. I unwrapped this bunny quickly and unceremoniously bit his head off!
One spring, around Easter, my Brownie troupe took a trip to the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey, to see a live performance of a play called “Harvey,” featuring the British-American actor and comedian Joe E. Brown. I was about eight years old, had never been to the theater before and was very excited, especially when we were told the play was about an imaginary white rabbit.
In truth, “Harvey” was a comedy written by Mary Chase in 1944 for which she surprisingly won the Pulitzer Prize. In 1955 it was adapted to the world of cinematography and became a hit film starring Jimmy Stewart, who gave the kind of whimsical, honest performance he was famous for. That same year, a live production of “Harvey” hit the boards starring Joe E. Brown. Although the plot was absurd on the surface, it was the underlying message that undoubtedly won the hearts of those who voted for the Pulitzer and awarded it to Mary Chase that year on “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams. The plot unfolds the story of a grown man, Elwood P. Dowd, who lives with his sister and niece in a large house; however, he also spends most of his time hitting up local bars, finding new friends, and introducing them to his invisible pal, Harvey, a 6-foot-3 white rabbit that only he can see. Dowd drinks his way through town “introducing” Harvey to everyone he meets while his sister quietly makes arrangements to have him committed. After hearing her riff about an imaginary rabbit, the people at the local sanitarium think she is actually the crazy one and try to hire her. Ultimately, the message of “What is real?” What is the truth? And anyway, who are you hurting by having an imaginary friend? comes to shine.
There have now been many springs that have come and gone since the one I went to the Paper Mill Playhouse and saw my first live show. Since then, I have developed a strong passion for live theater and have seen many local, regional and Broadway productions. But in addition to the sun and the flowers, spring always brings with it each year the sweet memory of this huge white rabbit who once shared the same space with me, actors pretending to be what they were not, and of the wonderful relationship that only live theater can create between actor and audience.
Even though I always love dark chocolate, especially at Easter, I don’t want a bunny in my basket anymore. I buy other chocolate novelties, but never a rabbit. This may sound silly to you, but it’s just that if I bit off on the head like I always wanted to, I’d feel like I was biting off Harvey’s head, and that’s the reason I love both the wonder of theater and understanding the depth and beauty of unconditional friendship, knowing that it doesn’t have to be visible to be real.
Happy Easter. Happy Easter. I hope you are all celebrating the beauty of the season and the joy of the friendships you hold dear, even if they are not always readily visible.
Kind of like an imaginary white rabbit.
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 20 years, including her “In Their Shoes” articles. She can be reached at [email protected] or 401-539-7762.