Theatre Review by Bonnie DeShong
I recently spent an enjoyable, exciting; fun filled, “Calgon take me away,” evening at the Goodman Theatre.
Director Henry Wishcamper has taken a very diverse cast and brought Thornton Wilder’s “The Matchmaker” to life with gusto to the Goodman stage.
It is set in the early 1900’s when the art of matchmaking was a much-excepted profession. Horace Vandegelder, played to perfection by Allen Gilmore, lives in Yonkers, is a widower, self made businessman who is on his way to being a millionaire, guardian of his niece, and can hold on to a dollar until the eagle screams. He had decided it was time for him to find a wife and has asked a good friend of the family, Dolly Gallagher Levi to help him find the suitable woman. Kristine Nielsen as Dolly is magnificent. She has so much energy and depth it leaves you breathless.
Dolly assures him that she has two women lined up for him to meet in New York and he will be married by the end of the week. However, Dolly has decided that the best woman for Horace and his money is her so off we go on a crazy whirlwind of adventure, mistaken identity, and musical interludes.
The cast of characters in the menagerie are very gifted and talented.
Ermengarde (Theo Allyn) who is Horace’s niece is in love with Artist Ambrose (Ronobir Lahiri). Of course Vandegelder is against this union and is sending her to New York to stay with a good and respectable friend Flora Van Huysen, until this romance nonsense passes. He does not know that Ambrose has traveled to New York with Ermengarde and her chaperone. His store clerks Cornelius Hacl (Postell Pringle) and Barnaby Tucker (Behzad Dabu) have decide to break away from the store to find their own adventure in New York. During their time in the big city they have three goals; two of them are to almost get arrested and to kiss a woman, things they have never experienced.
Everyone ends up at the hat shop of Irene Molloy, one of the ladies that Dolly has set up for Vandegelder. Elizabeth Ledo as Irene is sassy and bold. Although things don’t work out with Vandegelder, there is a spark between her and Cornelius.
After a lot of running around, strange music between scenes, lost purses and mistaken identity, everything is tied up neatly in a bow. I must admit I did get lost a couple of times but enjoyed the experience until I caught back up with the whirlwind of dialogue, especially Dolly’s.
There are many standout performances. One of my favorites is Flora Van Huysen played by Marilyn Dodds Frank. Flora is that eccentric, wacky, confused spirit that believes in the powers of love. Marilyn Dodds Frank brings this loveable character to life with just enough physical slightly off mental abandon that it works.
This entire production is fun. Neil Patel’s set design transformed the stage from a store in Yonkers to a hat shop in New York, to an upscale restaurant, to Flora’s wild and colorful home seamlessly.
Jenny Mannis worked her magic on the costumes. They are amazing and colorful and speak volumes to the characters.
One of my favorite parts of the show was the musical interludes between scenes. Why are they there? Who knows but it kept the spirit of the play going and was entertaining.
There aren’t many productions that make me laugh out loud, “The Matchmaker” is one of them and I wasn’t alone. The audience had a great time laughing, applauding and losing themselves in the lives of these weird and loveable characters.
I encourage you to spend a wonderful and wacky evening at the theatre and see “The Matchmaker” at the Goodman Theatre through April 10.
Until next time, keep your EYE to the Sky!