“The test of an adventure is that when you’re in the middle of it, you say to yourself, ‘Oh, now I’ve got myself into an awful mess; I wish I were sitting quietly at home.’ And the sign that something’s wrong with you is when you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of adventure.” These words, said by one of the play’s supporting characters, Barnaby Tucker, define the theme of Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker.
The story follows several characters along their misfortunes and successes in finding love in New York. There’s the grumpy rich man and widower, Horace Vandergelder, portrayed by senior William Brosnahan, who plans to remarry. His niece, Ermengarde, portrayed by senior Diyar Eyuboglu, wants to marry an artist named Ambrose Kemper, portrayed by junior Will Harrison, despite Mr. Vandergelder’s disapproval of him. Mr. Vandergelder’s two employees, Cornelius Hackl (senior Kevin William Paul) and Barnaby Tucker (junior Scott Kennedy) desire for adventure and decide to leave their store in Yonkers for a day to travel to New York City. Similarly, Irene Malloy (senior Kate Margalite) and Minnie Fay (senior Jada Mayo), two milliners in the city, want to do more than just sit in their store all day and take advantage of the opportunity for adventure when they meet Cornelius and Barnaby. In the middle of all these events is Dolly Gallagher Levi, portrayed by senior Chantelle Guido, who does her best to get into every-one’s business and essentially plays matchmaker for all the characters.
The play, first run on Broadway in 1955, introduced audiences to the beloved character of Dolly Levi, and was the inspiration for one of Broadway’s most popular musicals, Hello, Dolly! From Oct. 5 to Oct. 14, the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama is putting on their own production of the show. The Matchmaker is a part of the school’s Subscription Series, one of three series that take place during show season, which produces shows specifically directed and choreographed by professionals. Carnegie Mellon’s production of The Matchmaker was directed by a professor at the School of Drama, Anthony McKay, who has been credited in many plays produced around Pittsburgh.
I was able to watch a matinee showing of The Matchmaker with a friend. When we walked into the Philip Chosky Theater, the first thing I noticed was elderly viewers made up a good number of the audience; I assumed that they were from the local neighborhoods or were relatives of the cast. It was apparent that many of them regularly attended the shows run by the School of Drama, and listening to several talk about some of the previous performances, made me even more excited to watch this one. The Matchmaker was the first show I’ve seen from the School of Drama. Seeing the beautiful set design, costumes, and experiencing the school’s show atmosphere for the first time, was amazing; it was as if I were watching a show on Broadway.
I was fascinated by the presence of the entire cast on stage. Each actor was incredibly talented and portrayed their character very well. Guido’s performance as Dolly Levi was especially commend-able. What I found most interesting was that in the story, Dolly appeared to be the only character who knew how to navigate through the unpredictable and chaotic events of life, and was very aware of her surroundings. Her meddling into the love lives of others made it seem that Dolly knew the best from the rest. However, few moments in the play did reveal Dolly’s more vulnerable side, specifically when she talked about her husband who had passed away. Guido portrayed the complexity of Dolly Levi’s character in a way that helped make the entire moral of the story complete.
The Matchmaker was focused on the benefits of seeking out adventure in life. By watching the characters deal with their particular situations, the audience was able to learn more about how often and when risks should be taken. We were also reminded that knowing what can help and harm us in life is important in weighing the costs and benefits of risks. Dolly presented this idea when she talked about money, “the difference between a little money and no money at all is enormous, and can shatter the world; and the difference between a little money and an enormous amount of money is very slight, and that, also, can shatter the world.” The wisdom and influence that Dolly had on both the characters and audience is what made Thornton Wilder’s story unique.
Throughout the play, many of the other characters shared their own reflections on the events that were happening around them, and I felt it was because of Dolly’s effect on them. Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker had clearly matured by the end of the play. Mr. Vandergelder had a change of heart because of Dolly. Although the character of Dolly Levi was not the star of the show, her influence did play a significant role in the story of The Matchmaker.There was a lot to take away from this show, and it was because of how the very talented ensemble told the story. If you have time, be sure to watch The Matchmaker for a very worthwhile experience.