Review: The Matchmaker (Goodman Theatre)

| March 31, 2016

Theo Allyn and Kristine Nielsen in The Matchmaker, Goodman Theatre         

The Matchmaker

Written by Thornton Wilder
Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn (map)
thru Apr 10  |  tix: $20-$85 |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   


Goodman creates a hilarious, thoughtful ‘match’


Kristine Nielsen as Dolly Gallagher Levi in The Matchmaker, Goodman Theatre Chicago

Goodman Theatre presents
The Matchmaker

Review by Duane Barnes

It’s fun going to the Goodman theater and back to the “good old days”. Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker, now almost 80 years old, does exactly that. It’s a romp with outsized characters, highlights, short musical interludes and soliloquies, some funny, some thoughtful, all of which make the time pass quickly. The play revolves around Horace Vandegelder (Allen Gilmore), a wealthy blowhard from Yonkers N.Y. who’s decide, after many years of bachelorhood, to re-marry. To his aid comes Dolly Levi Gallagher (Kristine Nielsen) seemingly to “make a match” for him. But unbeknownst to him, Dolly intends to win him for her own and, at the same time, take a hand in matching up three-count them-three other couples as well.

Postell Pringle and Behzad Dabu in The Matchmaker, Goodman TheatreVandegelder tries to run everyone’s life, the first being his niece, Ermengarde (Theo Allyn). After refusing to let her marry her suitor, Ambrose (Ronobir Lahiri), Ermengarde goes into a teary breakdown, expressing her sorrow better than any 14-year old teenager, practically contorting herself into a pretzel – one of the many scene highlights of the play. Vandergelder also puts clamps on his two employees, Cornelius (Postell Pringle) and Barnaby (Behzad Dabu), burdening them with after-hours work so their free time is negligible. But when Vandergelder heads to New York City with Dolly to meet his supposed bride, a Mrs. Molly Molloy, his two employees decide to play hooky and see what they can find to do in the big city as well.

Act II of The Matchmaker finds us in the Hat Shop of Mrs. Irene Molloy (Elizabeth Ledo), Vandergelder’s intended. Ms Ledo is dynamite in this comedy scene, her timing, movement and delivery of top-notch showmanship which had the audience laughing again and again. Aiding the merriment are the characters of Cornelius and Barnaby, who by coincidence happen to find this shop, have to hide from Vandergelder and Dolly when they come to meet Mrs. Molloy . This scene takes on a vaudevillian air and, to the audience’s delight, all the actors do a fine job of timing lines and movement. The young men are also smitten by Mrs. Molloy and her assistant, Minnie Fay (Sydney Germaine) and, down the line, will need the assistance of Dolly to help their budding romance take root. The second act features some activities where the disparate characters almost run into each other, romances flourish and Dolly begins to do her best work on Vandergelder, making herself attractive while stating that she’s certainly not interested in him – perish the thought! – and he begins to take the bait.

Anita Hollander as Cook in The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder, Goodman Theatre Sydney Germaine, Behzad Dabu and Postell Pringle in The Matchmaker, Goodman TheatreRon E. Rains and Sydney Germaine in The Matchmaker, Goodman Theatre Elizabeth Ledo and Postell Pringle in The Matchmaker, Goodman TheatreBehzad Dabu, Postell Pringle and Allen Gilmore in The Matchmaker, Goodman Theatre

Finally, after much helter-skelter, they all end up at the posh home of Flora Van Huysen (Marilyn Dodds Frank), a friend of Vandergelder, who represents the pinnacle of high society. Beautifully playing the grand dame, Flora holds sway over the final act with one bon mot after another until, once more, Dolly comes to the fore and is able “make matches” for all concerned.

Behzad Dabu as Barnaby Tucker in The Matchmaker, Goodman TheatreDolly’s solo scene where she speaks to her departed husband and asks for his blessing on her upcoming nuptials with Vandergelder, “not for love but for money” is very touching and Nielsen delivers the lines beautifully. It’s also a lovely contrast with all the merriment preceding, a nice touch by the director, Henry Wishcamper, who keeps a lively pace befitting the material.

The supporting cast of Lawrence E. DiStasi, Anita Hollander and Ron Rains add class to the proceedings and a special kudo is due Marc Grapey, who plays Malachi Stack, a newly hired assistant to Vandergelder, who not only demonstrates a “spot-on” streetwise demeanor but also delivers a delicious soliloquy on the virtues of having only one vice rather than two or more.

Ultimately , the production is good “Match” between cast and audience. In fact, the one big critique would be that sometimes, after a very funny line, actors proceed too quickly, and the next line gets swallowed up in the laughter, preventing a well-deserved follow-up laugh.

Rating: ★★★

The Matchmaker continues through April 10th at Goodman’s Albert Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn (map), with performances Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 2pm & 8pm, Sundays 2pm.  Tickets are $20-$85, and are available by phone (312-443-3800) or online through their website (check for half-price tickets at More information at time: 2 hours 40 minutes, includes an intermission)

Ronobir Lahiri, Theo Allyn and Marilyn Dodds Frank in The Matchmaker, Goodman Theatre

Photos by Liz Lauren




Kristine Nielsen (Dolly Gallagher Levi), Allen Gilmore (Horace Vandergelder), Theo Allyn (Ermengarde), Behzad Dabu (Barnaby Tucker), Lawrence DiStasi (Cabman, Rudolph), Marilyn Dodds Frank (Flora Van Huysen), Sydney Germaine (Minnie Fay), Marc Grapey (Malachi Stack), Anita Hollander (Cook, Gertrude), Ronobir Lahiri (Ambrose Kemper), Elizabeth Ledo (Irene Molloy), Postell Pringle (Cornelius Hackl), Ron E. Rains (Joe Scanlon)

behind the scenes

Henry Wishcamper (director), Neil Patel (set design), Jenny Mannis (costume design), David Lander (lighting design), Richard Woodbury (sound design), Kathleen Petroziello (production stage manager), Alden Vasquez (production stage manager), Nikki Blue (stage manager), Adam Belcuore, Erica Sartini-Combs (casting), Neena Arndt (dramaturg), Liz Lauren (photos)

Kristine Nielsen and Allen Gilmore in The Matchmaker, Goodman Theatre Lawrence E. DiStasi, Allen Gilmore and Marc Grapey in The Matchmaker, Goodman Theatre Anita Hollander, Allen Gilmore and Ron E. Rains in The Matchmaker, Goodman Theatre Theo Allyn and Kristine Nielsen in The Matchmaker, Goodman Theatre Ronobir Lahiri and Kristine Nielsen in The Matchmaker, Goodman Theatre


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: 2016 Reviews, Albert Theatre, Duane Barnes, Goodman Theatre, Thornton Wilder, Video, YouTube

Comments (0)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

There are no comments yet. Why not be the first to speak your mind.

Comments are closed.