Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) School of Drama 2017- 2018 Season opens with Thornton Wilder’s classic comedy The Matchmaker. One of America’s favorite farces, The Matchmaker experienced many adaptations before becoming a success on Broadway and eventually taking credit for the wildly popular mid- century musical, Hello Dolly!
Set in 1880’s Yonkers, NY, The Matchmaker is the story of Dolly Levi, a marriage- broker and friend to Horace Vandergelder’s late wife. Vandergelder, a wealthy shop owner has arranged for his niece, Ermengarde, to relocate to the city in hope of separating her from Ambrose Kemper, an artist she has fallen in love with. As final preparations are made to get Ermengarde on a train, Vandergelder receives a visit from Dolly, whose services he has secured for himself. Dolly overhears Ermengarde and Ambrose discussing their dilemma and secretly agrees to help them. Vandergelder reveals to Dolly his plans to propose to New York widow, Mrs. Irene Malloy. Dolly interjects, telling Vangergelder she has found him the perfect wife, in an attempt to delay his marriage proposal. Meanwhile, Vandergelder’s employees, Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, upon learning their boss is leaving them in charge of the store, decide to have an adventure in New York City. From start to finish, ridiculousness ensues as the gregarious, outspoken and nosy Dolly meanders her way into the life of every character, attempting to help all find love and prosperity, including herself.
The performance is a splendid orchestration of absurdity. Each character under Dolly’s spell, falling prey to her matchmaking antics and easily swept up by her zany schemes. The Matchmaker, in typical farcical fashion, is fast paced, physical comedy which highlights Anthony McKay’s direction especially during the cafe scenes which is finely tuned chaos.
Chantelle Guido, cast as Dolly Levi, is charming. Guido flawlessly delivers her lines but it is her cherubic face rendering a sly and manipulative personality, that really sets her apart; her smirks and sideways glances speak almost as much as the delivery of her dialogue. William Brosnahan, cast as Horace Vandergelder, has a strong and confident command of his voice. Despite makeup, and wardrobe, at the beginning of the performance I struggled to see past his apparent young age. By the time he finished masterfully executing Vandergelder’s monologue in Act 1, I felt completely different. Kevin William Paul and Scott Kennedy, playing the parts of Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, have some of the best energy on the stage. Both are cast to play the naive and innocent type. Paul as Cornelius, the older of the 2 shop clerks, and initiator of mischief and adventure is daringly handsome and engaging. Tucker as Barnaby is Cornelius’ side kick who portrays a cute and innocent boy with perfection. Together Paul and Tucker create a memorable team.
The whole cast is polished and professional, as well as the scenery and lighting. I didn’t expect anything less knowing the caliber of the artists the university graduates. I love the way the cast engaged with the audience, taking as many cues from the applause as the audience took from the dramatic irony and comedic timing. This level of engagement was not something I was expecting and it was surprising. The Matchmaker is a strong opening production by gifted students, just one step away from stardom.
The Matchmaker runs at CMU’s Philip Chosky Theater through October 14. For tickets and more information, click here.