The Old Matchmaker Herself Returns

THE MATCHMAKERComedy by Thornton Wilder. Directed by Lonny Price. Starring Dorothy Loudon, Joseph Bova, Lisa Emery, Jim Fyfe. At the Roundabout Theatre through Sept. 22. DOROTHY GALLAGHER LEVI, the incorrigible busybody, is back where she belongs - stage-managing the lives of those around her, from Yonkers to New York. In a production perhaps more energetic than stylish, the Roundabout Theatre Company is presenting what it advertises as the first major production of Thornton Wilder's "The Matchmaker" since its successful Broadway debut in 1955. Borrowed from British and Austrian sources, the Wilder version failed when first presented as "The Merchant of Yonkers" in 1938. Retitled, brilliantly staged by Tyrone Guthrie, and starring Ruth Gordon, the farcical adventure tale came into its own in 1955. As "Hello, Dolly!" it emerged as a 1964 musical comedy hit starring Carol Channing, the first in a long line of singing Dollys. Both versions were ultimately filmed. The Roundabout revival marks a pleasant return to "The Matchmaker," which director Lonny Price has moved forward from the 1880s to "just after the turn of the century." Russell Metheny's graceful settings provide hospitable environs for Dolly's machinations, the escapades of Horace Vandergelder's audacious clerks, and the denouement in which all's well that ends well. "The Matchmaker" centers, of course, around Dolly herself, played in her idiosyncratic style by Dorothy Loudon. Dressed to the nines by costume designer Gail Brassard, Dolly schemes and maneuvers with shrewd opportunism and a practiced hand. Tight-fisted Yonkers merchant Horace Vandergelder - acted with constant high dudgeon by Joseph Bova - is an easy mark for Dolly, who not only sets her cap for the dictatorial merchant but arranges romantic liaisons wherever the opportunity presents itself. The Harmonia Gardens Restaurant on New York's Battery provides the setting for Wilder's wilder encounters and mis-encounters. Everything ends happily when all concerned turn up at the home of gracious Flora Van Huysen (Eileen Letchworth) who, like Dolly, is a friend of Vandergelder's late wife. Dolly has made her match and Horace has met his. Cornelius Hackl (Jim Fyfe) and Mrs. Irene Molloy (Lisa Emery) are united as are Vandergelder's niece Ermengarde (Wendy Lawless) and her artist (Michael Hayden). As the hapless Horace exclaims, "Everybody's falling in love with everybody...." The Roundabout players move with varying degrees of comic aplomb through the intricacies of the farcical plot. Mr. Bova is particularly adept at preserving the merchant's petty tyrannical tone, and Mr. Fyfe does nicely by the astonished Cornelius Hackl, who finds romance in a New York hat shop. The numerous cast also includes Rob Kramer, Jarlath Conroy, Theodore Sorel, and Lisa Dove. "The Matchmaker" marks the final production of the Roundabout's 25th anniversary season and its last Off Broadway production. In October, the company moves to the Criterion Center Theatre to become a Broadway company, making it eligible for Tony Awards.

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