David Douglas’ The Matchmaker proves a hit with theater-goers

You’ll be laughing out loud, as you try to figure out who is trying to romance whom in a hilarious play that has audiences saying, “Hello, Dolly!”

Dolly Levi (played by Kathryn Martin) – who states her principal occupation is “a woman who arranges things” – gives pre-nuptial advice to her late friend’s husband, the irascible merchant of Yonkers, Horace Vandergelder (John Ellis).

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Because so much grim news is in the headlines daily, David Douglas High School Theater Department instructor Michael Givler and the David Douglas Thespian Troupe decided to serve up a burgeoning buffet of laughter – by offering Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker as their winter production.

This classic comedy is based on an 1835 one-act farce in by John Oxenford called A Day Well Spent. Wilder adapted it into a full play, The Merchant of Yonkers, updating the play to the 1930s and moving the setting to New York; it closed after a few performances. At the urging of a Broadway director, Wilder extensively rewrote and renamed the play – and The Matchmaker became a hit, playing over 400 performances on Broadway before being turned into the Tony-Award-winning Broadway musical, Hello, Dolly!

Seeking to introduce some adventure in their otherwise dull lives as employees at Vandegelder’s grocery and hardware store, newly-named head clerk Cornelius Hackel (Sam DeRoest) hatches a plan for himself and his young associate, Barnaby Tucker (Carson Cook), to go on an escapade in New York City. A few ripe, exploding tomato cans later – they’re off to the big city!

Vandergelder thinks something fishy is going on (and he’s correct) when he and Dolly visit the hat shop owned by the woman he plans to marry, Irene Molloy. Irene certainly doesn’t love the grumpy, stingy Vandergelder, but she hopes to escape her dull life as a milliner.

Malachi Stack (Josh McKinney), Vandegelder’s newest clerk, listens from behind the potted plant with his boss, while Dolly advises young lovers – Vandegelder’s niece Ermengarde and her beau, poor artist Ambrose Kemper (Corey T-Cedarleaf) – of her uncle’s nefarious kidnapping plan.

About the story
This is a situation comedy about love and courtship, mistaken identities, and the desire for adventure and romance. This production of The Matchmaker is enhanced by the splendid sets and lighting provided by the student-run crew, led by theater manager Mark Taylor. The period costuming, supervised by theater instructor, Judy LeCoq, completes the characters.

Horace Vandergelder – a miserly old merchant of Yonkers, New York – is a wealthy widower. He wants to remarry, and engages the services of matchmaker Dolly Levi. As Vandergelder learns to his surprise, Dolly is determined to became his new wife.

Barnaby is nonplussed, and Minnie Fay (Vicki Walter), Irene Molloy’s clerk and Barnaby’s date, is shocked, as Cornelius demands that the foursome be given the exclusive use of the veranda at NYC’s exclusive Harmonia Gardens Restaurant – as Ruby (Audrey White), its snobbish senior waiter, tries to maintain dignity when dealing with the antics of the play’s main characters. The table Cornelius is upsetting was previously reserved for – who else? – Mr. Vandergelder.

After finding a wallet stuffed with money at the restaurant, Malachi Stack explains that he, a reformed petty thief, has decided to exercise one vice at a time, and he’s chosen booze! Not realizing it actually belongs to Vandergelder, Malachi “returns” the wallet to Cornelius – saving the two clerks from the embarrassment of taking Irene and Minnie to the pricy Harmonia Gardens – when they can’t even afford dinner at a hot dog stand.

Minnie, Barnaby, Cornelius, and Irene listen from behind the screen as Dolly tells Vandergelder that his intended – Irene Molloy – has fallen in love with another man, and won’t be joining them for dinner.

Dolly lectures and browbeats Vandergelder into feeling like he’s a small child who needs to be spoon-fed – telling him he’s not likely to find any woman who would want to be his new wife because of his unpleasant personality – except, perhaps possibly, herself.

Woven into this comedic tapestry is an assortment of characters associated with Vandergelder – including three of his employees, relatives, and friends who all yearn for romance and adventure in New York, and who end up pulling the wool over the blustery merchant’s eyes.

  • Will Barnaby get kissed “by a real woman” for the first time?
  • Can Ermengarde escape her uncle’s kidnapping plans, and marry Ambrose?
  • Will Irene Molloy marry for money – or love?
  • Is it possible for Cornelius to pay for an expensive date with the woman of his dreams when he’s broke, stay out of jail, and find the adventure he seeks?
  • And, will Dolly be able to soften old Vandergelder’s heart?

Audiences are laughing as they discover the answers to these questions by watching performances of The Matchmaker, now playing!

Standing behind her sofa, the slightly addled Flora VanHuysen (Amanda Pred) – a friend of Vandegelder’s late wife – tells Ermengarde and Ambrose that she’ll have nothing to do with the uncle’s kidnapping plans, because she considers herself “a friend of all young lovers”. Cornelius is exasperated, because Flora has confused Ambrose with himself.

After love finds its way, and mistaken identities are cleared up and confusions are resolved, the cast accepts the applause of an appreciative audience.

Show runs through March 14
The Matchmaker continues its run on March 6 and 7; and on March 12, 13, and 14. Curtain time for all performances is at 7:30pm.

Order your tickets today: The cost is only $5 for students and seniors; $7 for adults. The Box Office is open from 3:00 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. For more information, call (503) 261-8270 during Box Office hours.

The David Douglas High School Howard Horner Performing Arts Center is located at 1400 SE 130th Avenue, between SE Division and Stark Streets.

Theater arts instructor and theater manager Mark Taylor lends a hand backstage during one of the choreographed scene changes.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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