Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
These days Andrea Martin is most identified with her role as the irrepressible Aunt Voula from the 2002 hit film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Many also know her from her long career in film and television that include projects as Wag the Dog and SCTV. She is also no stranger to the New York stage, having appeared in shows such as My Favorite Year and most recently Oklahoma!. Ms. Martin now makes a leap to the Washington stage in a role that seems perfect for her Dolly Levi.
However, what sometimes looks good in theory doesn't always work out in practice. Such is the case in the casting of Ms. Martin in Ford Theatre's production of the Thornton Wilder comedy, The Matchmaker.
The Matchmaker is best known as the source material for Hello, Dolly! It takes place in the 1880s and tells the story of Horace Vandergelder. Vandergelder is a cantankerous old merchant who has amassed a sizable fortune. At the ripe old age of 60 he decides to marry for the second time. Meanwhile, his rather vapid niece Ermengarde is determined to marry the man she loves. Vandergelder opposes the marriage and takes steps to block it. Enter the matchmaker, Dolly Levi. Dolly likes to arrange things especially the lives of others. She wheedles and schemes until she gets the results she desires and she does it all with flair.
Dolly is a character that needs to exhibit spirit. That spirit is what is lacking in Ms. Martin's performance; she does not live up to her potential in this role. There are flashes of brilliance, and when those moments appear they are thoroughly enjoyable. Unfortunately, there just aren't enough of those moments and director Mark Lamos does little to bring them out.
As a whole the cast is quite good but not extraordinary. As Vandergelder, Jonathan Hadary starts out a bit over the top. One is always aware that he is acting. However, he improves as the show progresses and ends up giving a nice performance. As Cornelius and Barnaby, David McNamara and Christopher J. Hanke are quite charming. However, the best performance in the show is supplied by Sarah Zimmerman (Mrs. Irene Malloy). Ms. Zimmerman's performance is incredibly energetic and totally on the mark. She understands this character and it shows. Ms. Zimmerman also exhibits a good sense of rhythm and a refinement in her delivery that reminded this reviewer of Hollywood leading ladies of old such as Myrna Loy and Carole Lombard.
Visually, the production is very attractive. The sets by Michael Yeargan and costumes by Wade Laboissonniere communicate the time period effectively.
As for the play itself, there is little one can say about Thornton Wilder's work. The Matchmaker is a delightful play with some very amusing characters. Ford's made a good decision when it selected this show for its new season. However, this production falls a bit short of what it could be. The Matchmaker runs through October 24th.
Cast List (in order of appearance)
Horace Vandergelder: Jonathan Hadary