The Matchmaker of Montreal may be classy, but it needs to figure out what it really is.
Elise tells her husband of many years that she is leaving him because he is not rich. She wants to find a richer man; in fact she wants to be the richest woman in the world. To understand or relate to her we need to know why. No compelling reason is given. So she comes off as an anti-hero or a villain. Not very like-able, but maybe she will come off as super nasty and super unlikable, that could be fun.
She goes to see a Matchmaker named Martha – who just dumped her boyfriend because she says, “it just wouldn’t work”. Why? No compelling reason is given.
Martha tells Elise to go to a funeral to snag a really rich widower, but first she has to send the greedy lady on a couple of test dates, but that too opens up a whole series of answered questions. Do matchmakers really have a stable of “test daters” at the ready? Do these test daters get paid? It’s curious, but at least we get to meet two of her dates, both played with comic aplomb by Robert Moloney.
In act two as Elise has become super rich she is now making charitable donations which upsets Chantal DuMaurier, played with a great deal of fun by Juno Ruddell, who is also super rich and wants to keep her status as the biggest donor in Montreal. DuMaurier enlists Martha’s help to exact revenge who is game since Elise never paid her $10,000 bill for her matchmaking services.
The style of the piece as directed by Sarah Phillips is subdued and broad at the same time. She has the actors squint their eyes with a sinister sneer, broadcasting when they are lying. Of course that begs the question why the person they are talking to doesn’t notice?
The remaining actors, Kirsten Robek as Elise, Lisa Bunting as Martha and the reliable David Adams as the spurned lover, are all grounded and game. Yet the story doesn’t grab you.
The characters are not fleshed out, so how do you make the comedy sing? The machinations are on the absurd side, so does it require a broader acting style? Masks, maybe? Elise is a villain but not outrageous so we don’t admire her brazen ways. She doesn’t shock us, so we don’t admire or condemn her. We just watch.
In the end it appears as if the script is in an early draft stage. Nothing comes off as a problem in act one. The plot meanders, the revenge tale of Lady DuMaurier gets wrapped up too quickly as do sub-plots and the twists along the way are not involving or surprising.
The company has put a lot of work into this production with Christopher David Gauthier’s costumes, set and props all classy, but it needs to figure out what it is: is it a bizarre satire, a romantic comedy, a crazy revenge caper?
I saw the show the day after opening so the crowd was not the usual gathering of peers and friends. There was an older gentleman in front of me chuckling all the way through and applauded at the end of every scene. At the end he muttered “what fun.” So there is an audience for this new work.
By Shaul Ezer. Directed by Sarah Phillips. A Matchmaker Productions presentation. On stage at the Firehall Arts Centre through June 2, 2013. Visit http://firehallartscentre.ca for tickets and information.