Now playing at Taproot Theatre in Greenwood is "The Matchmaker," Thornton Wilder's precursor to the hit musical "Hello, Dolly!" Directed by Scott Nolte, "The Matchmaker" rounds out the 2013 season with a light and airy farce.
Taproot had hoped to have their newly constructed much larger space open and ready for this production putting an end to the 4 years since the arson fire damaged the theater. Apparently that will have to wait for the Christmas shows. But patrons can still stroll by the new space and peer in through the windows to get a sense of what's in store.
Meanwhile, the old space does just fine with the usual intimate setting between cast and audience. The show can be summed up in one of Mrs. Levi's (the infamous Dolly from the name of the musical based on the show, played here by Pam Nolte), "Life as it is, is never quite interesting enough for me." And she sets out to stir things up and make some changes for our little cast of characters.
Horace Vandergelder (Robert Gallaher), shop owner and brutish bully, wants to keep his niece, Ermengarde (Caitlin Macy-Beckwith) from marrying her artist sweetheart, Ambrose Kemper (Josh Smyth). At the same time, he is himself pursuing marriage with the widow and fellow shop owner Mrs. Molloy (Natalie Anne Moe).
Leaving his two clerks (Cornelius Hackl, played by Robert Hinds and Barnaby Tucker, played by Brad Walker) in charge, he leaves Yonkers for the big city to woo his love interest with the (supposed) help of Mrs. Levi.
But Mrs. Levi is spinning her own complicated web with the goal in mind of catching Vandergelder for herself while aiding in mischief wherever possible. Unbeknownst to Vandergelder, Mrs. Levi has helped Ermengarde and Ambrose with their own flights to New York City. And, as soon as everyone has vacated, shop clerks Cornelius and Barnaby orchestrate a way to close down the shop for the day and go to New York as well with a desire for adventure and a kiss from a girl.
While in New York chaos and mistaken identity ensue as the separate groups cross and re-cross paths until finally they all land at the home of Miss Flora Van Huysen (Kim Morris), where everything is sorted out into a happy ending for everyone.
Nolte makes a sprightly and ever buoyant Mrs. Levi, and Moe as Mrs. Molloy is feisty and full of longing for a bigger life as she fondly remembers the stirring fights she had with her late husband. Hinds as Cornelius Hackl tumbles through his New York adventure with a charming wide-eyed grin.
Asha Stichter as Mrs. Molloy's assistant, Minnie Fay, does a lovely drunken stagger after an evening out with too much champagne. Stephen Grenley as Malachi Stack gives us a rousing and very funny speech about how his motto is to cherish one vice at a time, so he had to give up being dishonest because, as he says, "I took to whiskey. Whiskey took to me."
But Kim Morris's twittering vapors were a particular pleasure for me as she staggered around the stage as Miss Flora Van Huysen, announcing frequently to no particular point: "Story of my life!"
The play is a little long for my tastes. I'd like to see a comedy like this move along a little more briskly and perhaps have the script cut a bit shorter.
The audience, however, was delighted on opening night and the production itself is well done, from the scrumptious period costumes by Sarah Burch Gordon to the catchy music (sound design by Mark Lund). If you're looking for something lighthearted and sunny as our Seattle weather turns dark and gloomy, this is a good choice.
"The Matchmaker" runs through Oct. 26 at Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St. in Seattle. For info or tickets, call 206-781-9707 or visit taproottheatre.org.