By: Carole Kay
On January 9, 2015, the Asolo Repertory Theater’s 2014-15 season presented Thornton Wilder’s delightful comedy, The Matchmaker.
The plot begins in Yonkers, New York, as a wealthy merchant, Horace Vandergelder, refuses to consent to the marriage of his niece and her artist boyfriend. In denying his permission, the merchant ignores the value of love in a relationship, and only focuses on his belief the artist will be unable to properly support a wife. Vandergelder then sets out to find a wife for himself, not for love, but to properly run his household. He uses the services of a matchmaker, Dolly Levi. The plot evolves as Vandergelder travels to New York City to meet a hatmaker who he believes will make him a proper wife. Unbeknownst to the merchant, his two employees abandon their work, and steal away to New York City in search of adventure while their employer is away. Through a series of happenstances, the main characters find themselves in the same cafe for dinner, and a hilariously madcap scene unfolds. Eventually, Vandergelder proposes marriage to Dolly Levi, who had schemed the alliance from the beginning.
All the actors were superb in their roles, particularly the two actors portraying the merchant’s employees, who exhibited great comedic energy in the millenary shop. Dialogue was delivered clearly and crisply, as each actor took on the persona of his/her role. Particularly, the soliloquy delivered by actor Steve Hendrickson as Vandergelder was outstanding.
The sets designed for The Matchmaker were creative, but not a distraction, and seemed to dissolve one into the next as the characters travelled from the merchant’s store to the millenary shop, and from the cafe to a private home.
The actors, director, the sets and the venue provided a most enjoyable evening.
Production of Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker
– The National Post
Set at the dawn of the 20th century, THE MATCHMAKER chronicles an eccentric band of characters as they frolic through New York City in search of love, fortune and adventure. When the brusque and affluent merchant Horace Vandergelder wants a wife, he seeks the assistance of sprightly matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi. He intends to marry Irene Molloy, a widowed, disenchanted milliner, but Dolly has already secretly concocted a plan to marry him herself. Vandergelder’s madcap employees Cornelius and the young Barnaby are never far from their boss’ quest for a wife, leaving a sticky trail of shenanigans along the way.
Peggy Roeder, who played Madge, Sonia, and Ma Joad in last season’s Philadelphia, Here I Come!, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, and The Grapes of Wrath, stars as the magnetic Dolly Levi. Steve Hendrickson, who played Andrew McNair in Asolo Rep’s 2012-13 season production of 1776, plays Horace Vandergelder.
Celebrated American author Thornton Wilder penned two Pulitzer Prize winning plays: Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth, and his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey received the Pulitzer Prize in 1928. Wilder also wrote the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1943 film Shadow of a Doubt.
Set designer Russell Metheny, who has designed the sets for Asolo Rep’s productions of Philadelphia, Here I Come!, 1776, My Fair Lady and Twelve Angry Men, brings Wilder’s world of turn of the century Yonkers and New York City to life with an imaginative set that reflects the upbeat, highly active feel of the play.
“It was important to design the sets for THE MATCHMAKER to allow a continuous fluid non-stop action,” said Metheny. “The first two acts are designed to move from one to the other without stopping, in view, to keep the action, energy of the performances and story flowing. As the first act ends the set rides upstage away from the audience’s view as the Act 2 set rides on from both sides of the stage. In this transition we travel as if we took the train from Yonkers to Manhattan, accented by a vista of a bustling elevated train station.”
Infused with joyful original music composed by Gregg Coffin, THE MATCHMAKER merrily continues the third season of Asolo Rep’s American Character Project, a five-year celebration of this country’s diverse culture and people. This season, a common thread of money, power and sex weaves through each production. The central theme of Wilder’s longest-running Broadway play is to take chances and embrace love and adventure, which remains a core American value.
“Filled with wit and wisdom, THE MATCHMAKER is a brilliant comedy that evokes a 19th century version of Match.com,” said Michael Donald Edwards, producing artistic director of Asolo Rep. “At the same time it captures the heart of the human dilemma we understand so well in America: how to achieve financial security while at the same time experiencing the unbridled joy of living in the moment.”
Matthew R. Olsen
Gracie Lee Brown
Joe Scanlon/Gypsy Musician
Miss Flora Van Huysen
Miss Van Huysen’s Cook
Virgil C. Johnson
(in alphabetical order)
January 6, February 3, March 24, 2015 (following the 7:30pm performance)
Asolo Rep’s Mezzanine
Join us for an intimate post-show discussion with featured actors or guests following every Tuesday performance of THE MATCHMAKER.
Meet the Actors
Sunday, February 8, 2015
(Following the 2pm matinee)
Asolo Rep’s Mertz Theatre
Immediately following the 2pm matinee, ask questions and learn more from members of the cast.