Last weekend the Indiana Festival Theatre opened the second of its rep shows, Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker. This week saw the publication of two reviews for the classic comedy: Producer George Walker’s radio review (available here) calls the play a “good match” with the IFT and “a bow to Americana.” He provides a good summary of the action and a sense of its comic tone. Herald-Times reviewer Doris Lynch thinks the production is as “Effervescent as the Harmonia Gardens champagne. … [T]his show will thoroughly charm and amuse you. Don’t miss it.”
The Herald-Times has been good enough to permit us to reprint Ms. Lynch’s review below. If you’re a subscriber, you can read the review (and other interesting articles about local theatre and arts) at the heralstimesonline.com site. Here is a link to the review.
‘THE MATCHMAKER’ Theater review:
Matchmaking going on at the IU Festival Theatre
Posted: Monday, July 15, 2013 12:00 am
Never trust a matchmaker especially if she runs a varicose vein consulting business on the side. As Mrs. Dolly Levi, Jenny McKnight portrays a woman, richly drawn to people and clever enough to “manage” an obstinate skinflint, in “The Matchmaker.” It’s also true that she’s desperate enough to need a man’s purse even if it belongs to a Yonkers curmudgeon.
Dale McFadden’s superb direction brings together a cast of talented and extremely funny actors in a presentation of the play that inspired the musical “Hello, Dolly.” David Kortemeier is highly believable as Horace Vandergelder, the rich store owner who underpays and overworks his staff, refuses to consider an artist as a beau for his niece, and even insults his barber as he wields a sharp-edged razor before his throat.
What comedy skills, Benjamin W. Abbott reveals as the incredibly funny Cornelius Hackl — recently promoted chief store clerk from chief store clerk. He’s 33 years old and has never been kissed. After their boss leaves for New York on personal business (to meet the milliner, Mrs. Molloy), Hackl cooks up a scheme to spend a day in NYC also to have adventures. His sidekick in tomato-can-explosion (their excuse for closing the store) and partner in exploration is Barnaby Tucker. Thomas Beaver plays Tucker with a winsome and innocent recklessness while exhibiting excellent comedic timing.
New York is where the play ups the ante as one zany scene follows another. First, the two clerks hide in Mrs. Malloy’s shop. Evelyn Gaynor, bewitching as the lovely widow whom society has pegged with a bad reputation because of her occupation, has been led to believe by the matchmaker that Hackl is a rich, upstanding Yonkers citizen. And in this almost no-degree of separation world, Vandergelder enters the shop while his two clerks are finally having an adventure (“pudding, pudding” is the clerks’ code word for one.) When he tries to discipline the two young men, Mrs. Malloy shouts down Vandergelder.
Every protectress deserves a dinner on the town; Irene Molloy demands one and a cab ride there also. Soon the various parties descend upon the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant. Soon the milliner and her assistant (Emily Harpe) order an expensive “simple” meal to the utter horror of Hackl and Tucker — they have only a few dollars between them. Before long Vandergelder and the matchmaker arrive. Snobby, officious and effete, the three waiters (played by Nicholas Bailey, Sam Barkley and Grant Niezgodski) weave among the warring parties, glasses and bottles held high.
Wilder added an interesting technique in this play; he has several of the actors share a heart-to-heart with the audience. What little gems these monologues are. Particularly heartwarming and funny was Ken Ferrell as Malachi Stack describing why he nurses only one vice — in his case whiskey rather than thievery. Toward the end of the play McKnight delivers another very moving one.
Utterly terrific as Miss Flora Van Huysen, Andrea Mellos plays a young woman destroyed by interfering people. She knows one important thing: that people who love each other must not be kept apart no matter what others think. As cabbies drop off an assortment of drunk, mismatched couples, she reconnects them over gingerbread, hot baths and coffee.
Opening night, a few lines were said hesitantly.
Christopher Rhoton designed a gorgeous set full of period details from the stained class windows to the elaborate weathervane on the roof. He captured the elegance of a rich man’s house in the 1890s.
Vibrant, entrancing gowns by Katie Cowan Sickmeier could have been worn in an Edith Wharton novel, and Vandergelder’s green martial suit was peacock-proud striking.
Effervescent as the Harmonia Gardens champagne, this show will thoroughly charm and amuse you. Don’t miss it.
If you go
WHO: Indiana Festival Theatre.
WHAT: “The Matchmaker” by Thornton Wilder.
WHERE: Wells-Metz Theater, 275 N. Jordan Ave.
WHEN: 2 p.m. Sunday, July 20, and July 28 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Friday, Sunday and July 23, 25 and 27.
TICKETS: $15-$25. Call 812-855-1103 or go online at www.theatre.indiana.edu.