The Matchmaker

From the book by John B Keane, adapted by Phyllis Ryan

Irish Repertory Theatre, New York

(2002)

Review by Catherine Lamm

Confectionately yours. . .

The Matchmaker at the Irish Repertory Theatre is a toothsome bag of assorted Irish sweets that melt in your mouth.

Dicky Mick Dicky O'Conner is so pleased with himself after one success at matchmaking that he is "willing and able to perform services for those in a single or widowed state to wit the making out of a marriage partner for those as require" in Spider's Well, a small Irish farming community. We hear through the letters sent back and forth between himself and his clients of his success and failures.

One of the first that we meet is Miss Fionna Crust who complains that her newly matched husband, "a fine lump of a man", is not performing his husbandly duties and, therefore, she is writing for return of her £20 "by return post". O'Conner suggests the most unique cure of an orange with hole punched in it held between her breasts for a couple of days and then fed to him. A second matched husband proves to be "a non-starter" and she threatens to go to the bishop if her money is not refunded. The third, Roger Spick, a randy jockey of five feet and 100 pounds, proves the success.

Cornelius J. McCarthy is of very minor nobility, never married but looking now for a wife of 25 or down but will settle for a boy while waiting. We also hear from a man, spurned by his wife, who finds a wealth of success in O'Conner's suggestion of a "dollop" of whiskey or "potcheen" in a cup of warm milk with white pepper.

We are also introduced to O'Conner's sister from Boston, a 41-year-old cripple "wasting and stooped" who "has not in his life spoken to ten women", and a woman who failed to mentioned that she had a wooden leg because no one asked.

This delightful selection of characters from John B Keane's book Letters of a Matchmaker is adapted by Phyllis Ryan.

All of the words and characters are the sweet and savory offerings of Des Keogh (nominated for Best Actor Award at the Edinburg Festival) and Anna Manahan (Tony award winner for Beauty Queen of Leenane). The performances have been well honed touring The Matchmaker through Ireland, Scotland and England.

The actors need no more than the two small tables, two chairs, and one rough bench to locate themselves. The set designed by Michael McCaffery is sparse and rustic enough to suggest tidy cottages and farmhouses. The somewhat tricky space of The Irish Repertory Theatre is deftly handled by director, Michael Scott. He moves these seasoned actors only to differentiate the characters, then leaves them to create. A difficult and tricky chore of lighting is well timed although occasionally distracting.

Though most of the letters are funny, there are some poignant moments. The language is rich and colorful even if we have not read the glossary of Irish "words and meanings". This polished and tasty treat should not be missed.

You will find Peter Lathan's review of this show at the 2001 Edinburgh Fringe here.