Playwright Thornton Wilder
By Thornton Wilder
Directed by Alan Weller
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2017 Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
While you may not know this famous piece of theatrical history by this particular name, you probably do know this slapstick romp of mistaken identities and found love as the musical Hello, Dolly!, famously featuring the incomparable Carol Channing or even Barbra Streisand as the ever eager lead, Dolly Gallagher Levi.
The play originated in the early 19th century as the English comedy, A Day Well Spent, and has taken on many iterations since then, the most current being The Matchmaker and Hello, Dolly!. So why has this piece lasted as long as it has? The easy answer is that the central themes of love and comedy are enjoyable to watch, despite not being very politically correct according to today’s social climate. To help off-set this, I should note that characters do give credit to the power of a woman.
Wealthy widower Horace Vandergelder (Gary Crockett) has decided that it was time that he took on a new wife and he enlists the help of his late wife’s friend Dolly Levi (Heather Cruikshank), who has a history of matchmaking. Dolly is all too happy to help Horace out and suggests New York milliner Irene Molloy (Shelly Marquart Reid) to be his bride. Before Horace makes the trek from Yonkers to New York he sternly forbids his live-in niece, Ermengarde (Dawn Milby), to marry Ambrose Kemper (James Ballard), the young artist who she loves, because of his lack of ability to care for her. Instead, she is to be sent to New York to be watched over by a family friend, Miss Van Huysen (Cindy Smith). Meanwhiles, Horace’s long underappreciated clerks Cornelius (Brad Lambert), and Barnaby (Zac Herbert), decide that while the boss is away they too will take a much-needed adventure to New York.
With the assistance of his new assistant Malachi Stack (Andrew K. McGill), Horace makes arrangements for his meeting/proposal to Mrs. Molloy, but hijinks and altered identities make Horace rethink his decision because of the trickery that matchmaker Dolly had put into motion, for she’d like to be the next Mrs. Vandergelder herself.
After an eventful and entertaining evening at the posh Harmonia Gardens Restaurant on the Battery we see budding romances begin to blossom and come to light. Through a series of unintentional events all parties wind up at Mrs. Van Huysen’s house, who offers a safe haven for lovers. Though Horace is flummoxed by the events of the past day, he acquiesces and asks for Dolly’s hand in marriage.
There are many strong performances given within this play and some that need, I dare say, a bit more work. Let’s begin with Gary Crockett’s Horace. He reminded me of Walter Matthau and his portrayal of Horace in the 1969 film adaptation Hello, Dolly!, and that is fine by me. Mr. Crockett displayed great comedic timing and noticeable changes in character. Cindy Smith’s Mrs. Van Huysen was delightfully quirky and off-kilter. Andrew K. McGill’s Malachi Stack doesn’t get a lot of stage time, but when he does, he does so with aplomb, especially when he breaks the fourth wall and talks directly or interacts with the audience, which he does unobtrusively throughout the play – a great choice for the character. Shelly Marquart Reid’s Irene Molloy had just the right consistency, with being a proper New York lady turned into an understanding and bubbly-infused party girl who still kept her head about her. Secondary parts such as Mrs. Mulloy’s assistant Minnie Fay (Sarah Eberhardt), Joe the Cabman (Michael S. Gaither), and others did an admirable job, but the one that drew some of the bigger laughs was the role of Gertrude played by Lynda Arkwright with a subtle delivery. The roles that had me laughing the most were Brad Lambert’s Cornelius and Zac Herbert’s Barnaby. They reminded me of some of vaudeville’s and the 20th century’s famous comedic partners: Laurel and Hardy (without the violence), the Marx Brothers, or Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Mr. Lambert’s quick wit and ability to read the situation helped to elevate the show. Mr. Herbert has great timing and delivery plus his ability to do physical comedy certainly didn’t hurt the show either.
In the role of Ermengarde, I’d say that Ms. Milby played her as she felt that she could be played. But, I think it would have been more fun to see a bit more defiance against her uncle and more passion (not overtly) toward Ambrose.
I have seen Ms.Cruikshank in other performances at Clarksville Little Theater and she has done quite well. I am not sure what her intention was for her role as Dolly Levi. In all versions of the story Mrs. Levi is portrayed as strong, confident, and fierce. I did not get a single sense of this from Mrs. Cruikshank in this performance. Instead, I saw someone who was careful about her delivery, fidgety and uncomfortable.
The production company does quite an admirable job with scenery, props and lighting. The costumes, for the most part, look just right for the period and are lovely, except Minnie Fay’s looked a little frumpy.
I liked a lot of the choices that director Alan Weller made for this staging except for the restaurant scene. The audience sat for several very long minutes watching Horace and Dolly eat while the new couples were just crouching and looking at each other. Perhaps that can be changed up a little. Also, why were there Southern accents in Yonkers?
Despite a few hiccups Clarksville Little Theater’s production of The Matchmaker made for a fairly entertaining evening with laughs.
March 10, 11, 12, 17, & 18 @ 8:00pm
March 19th @ 2:00 PM
For Ticket reservations go to http://www.clarksvillelittletheatre.org/tickets/
or Call (812) 283-652
Adults (ages 19-59) $18.00, Seniors (ages 60+) $15.00
Teens (ages 13-19) $15.00, Children (6-12) $10.00
Children under 6, who can sit on a lap do not require a ticket, however if a
Separate seat is required, then the charge is $10
Clarksville Little Theatre
301 East Montgomery Avenue
Clarksville, IN 47129
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.