‘Matchmaker’ courts audiences


Despite losing a scheduled dress rehearsal amid Tuesday’s severe weather, director Louis Rackoff feels well-prepared for Southern Miss Theatre’s season-opening show on Feb. 25.

“The Matchmaker,” a theatre favorite written by Thornton Wilder, involves mistaken identities, wit and surreptitious meetings. Horace Vandergelder seeks a wife and hires marriage broker Dolly Levi to find his match. That is, until Dolly falls for him before the romance spearheads into a series of amusing complications. Dolly Levi from “The Matchmaker” inspired the hit musical “Hello Dolly!”

The play is an old-fashioned farce that uses conventions such as characters hidden under tables and in closets, men disguised as women, a complicated conspiracy to match lovers and a happy ending in marriage. The main character, Dolly Levi, came from French playwright Molière’s comedy L’avare, or The Miser, from which Wilder lifted some scenes directly.

“It has crazy plot twists,” Rackoff said.

Despite losing a scheduled dress rehearsal due to the university’s severe weather closing, director Louis Rackoff feels well-prepared for Thursday’s show.

“It’s a delightful comedy and piece of Americana about people who want to find more adventure in their lives,” Rackoff said.
The crew took a number of hours Wednesday evening to rehearse for the opening performance.

“We took an hour to practice scene changes, and from then we had a number of people who pitched in out of the goodness of their hearts to help us practice,” said Rebeca Lake, set designer. “Even when something goes wrong, the cast has so much life and takes in the moment.”

“One of the most beautiful things about this show to me is not just the couples that find each other, but also the friendships that are created between people of all ages,” Lake said. “Often, nowadays, the older and younger generations stay separate and even suspicious of each other. We miss out on valuable friendships. That is the beauty of this show and of theatre. People of all ages and walks of life coming together.”

Rackoff said the department chose to be the spring opener because it offers ideal roles for the actors.

“We were looking for a show that would do that,” Rackoff said.

The Department of Theatre tries to rotate genres for its plays every four to five years, according to Rackoff.

“We put on different plays from different times and mid to early American theatre was one of categories this year,” Rackoff said. “The writing is brilliant and the dialog is witty and fun with heartfelt characters. It’s a great choice for the department.”

“The Matchmaker” was modified as ”Hello, Dolly!,” which began in 1963 and ranked as one of Broadway’s longest-running musicals.
The playwright uses monologue to speak to the audience. Characters pause the play and talk about what is occurring in the storyline. “This gives an opportunity for audience to think about what’s happened,” Rackoff said.

Beginning the week before classes started in January, the crew rehearsed five days per week, four hours per night, with one week off, totaling approximately a month of rehearsal time.

“We have had intensive rehearsal, but it’s been a lot of fun,” Rackoff said. “We’ve put in a lot of hard work to get a great result. It’s very pleasing from that point of view.”

Rackoff expects large numbers the event he believes will be an interesting live performance of contemporary material.
“This semester’s shows offer incredible variety,” Rackoff said.

Other performances will take place on Feb. 26 and 27 and March 8, 9 and 10 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee onFeb.28at2p.m.Therewillbea pre-performance talk at 6:30 p.m. on March 9.

The theatre’s next performance is “Moby Dick – Rehearsed Adapted” by Orson Welles from the novel by Herman Melville in April at the Hartwig Theatre followed by “The Seagull” by Anton Chekhov in late April and early May in the Tatum Theatre.