Susan Erickson and David Colacci in HSRT's "The Matchmaker." Photo: HSRT

'Matchmaker' Ends Hope Season With Laughs

By Sue Merrell

"The Matchmaker," the final show of Hope Summer Repertory Theatre's season, is a great match for the directing talents of HSRT founder John Tammi.

Tammi, who retired in May after a 46-year career in the college's theater department, has done a remarkable job setting up all of the funny business in "The Matchmaker" so that it seems perfectly natural. A dropped wallet is a key plot point, for instance, and yet Tammi has staged the scene so perfectly that the falling of the wallet seems incidental to a humorous struggle to remove a coat. Similar attention to detail throughout Friday's opening show created a snappy, fast-paced production with many laugh-out-loud moments.

Thornton Wilder's 1955 play is the basis for the 1964 musical "Hello, Dolly!" But without all the musical numbers, the characters and Wilder's social commentary are allowed to shine. Set in the 1880s in New York, it's the story of wealthy store owner Horace Vandergelder (David Colacci) who has hired matchmaker Dolly Levi (Susan Ericksen) to help him find a wife. Along the way, Dolly encourages the romance of his niece Ermengarde (Ellie Campbell) and her artist boyfriend Ambrose (Thomas Joscelyn), as well as matching clerk Cornelius (Joshua Kumler) with milliner Irene (Kate Thomsen) and assistant clerk Barnaby (Evan Adams) with Irene's assistant Minnie (Theo Zucker).

Wilder has included numerous nuggets of insightful commentary, such as Vandergelder's opinion that marriage is a way to make a housekeeper work harder because she thinks she owns the place. Dolly, on the other hand, expresses the opinion that it's a wife's job to spend her husband's wealth to support workers and craftsmen. "Money is like manure," she says. "It's not worth a thing unless it is spread about encouraging young things to grow."

Even Vandergelder's clown-like assistant Malachi (Skye Edwards) pauses to share a soliloquy with the audience on the vices of drink and theft. "Never support more than one vice at a time," he suggests.

But it's the well-staged funny business that makes this show roll so smoothly.

In the opening scene, Vandergelder bounces from one chair to another while his barber (Khyel Roberson) follows him around with a razor trying to whisk away a whisker or two. At the hat shop, Cornelius is hiding in the closet, but seems to disappear by switching from side to side depending which door is opened. Barnaby is hiding under the table and manages some great sleight of hand with the table cloth, which appears to happen effortlessly but clearly took a great deal of planning and practice to execute.

Joseph Flauto's sets feature well-appointed background pieces that roll around to reveal a complete change of scene. Jason Resler's costumes are elegant, including bountiful bustles and flamboyant hats.

The play's final scene at the home of Flora VanHuysen (Jean Bahle) was dropped from the musical version, but provides a good resolution opportunity where all the couples are matched up and Dolly arranges herself as the perfect match for Vandergelder.

"The Matchmaker" is an excellent reminder that you don't need big Broadway production numbers to have a fine adventure in the theater.

REVIEW:

'The Matchmaker'

Hope Summer Repertory Theatre

DeWitt Theatre

141 E. 12th St., Holland

8 p.m. July 19, 22, 25, 30, Aug. 1, 5, 8

$15

616-395-7890

http://www.hope.edu/hsrt

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