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vancouverplays review

 

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— Production poster

THE MATCHMAKER OF MONTRÉAL
By Shaul Ezer
Firehall Arts Centre
May 23-June 2
$20-$30 at www.tickets.firehallartscentre.ca

With Stockwell Day in the audience of a world premiere supported by polite people from law firms, and a program note that mentions the novice playwright edited his high school yearbook, The Matchmaker of Montréal is a vanity project, produced and written by retired corporate lawyer Shaul Ezer. As much as one wants to simply look the other way, shows like this can give theatre a bad name.

Ezer, also a self-published novelist (with his book on sale in the lobby), was inspired to write this attempt to advertise his cleverness by overhearing one woman tell another at a funeral reception that funerals are a good place to meet men. Martha, a professional matchmaker, gives this same advice to a blatant gold-digger, Elise, who proceeds to drape herself over the casket of a woman she never met, impressing and quickly marrying the filthy rich widower.

Never mind the deeply conservative and essentially negative view of women at the heart of this mawkish comedy of manners; that storyline is not without potential charm. There is even a promising opening scene in which Elise brashly informs her first husband she is leaving their marriage simply because he has failed to make enough money. When he protests, she delivers the show’s only memorable line, “Integrity is the last refuge of a loser.”

After Elise joins high society and refuses to pay her bill, the matchmaker seeks revenge. Unfortunately Lisa Bunting as the main character, Martha, struggles throughout. It is not credible that this nervous character would ultimately win the heart of a Prime Minister in the sub-plot. And whoever chose that wardrobe must have had in for her. Bunting is quite simply uncomfortable for ninety minutes until the show’s astonishingly lame ending that requires three characters to laugh at a completely flat joke about Ottawa.

Amazingly, this show forewarns mature content. It’s an indication of how dated Ezer’s sensibilities are. We could be in the Fifties. Director Sarah Phillips must have been at her wits’ end trying to wring some humour out of Ezer’s perpetually on-the-nose dialogue. Is this supposed to be a farce? Or is this some kind of time warped return to Wayne ‘n’ Shuster? There is no consistency to the performances, or the accents.

Kirsten Robek as the blatantly callous client Elise earns Matchmaker a half-star rating out of five for her consistently vampish performance. The only thoroughly bad character on stage is Matchmaker’s lone strength; the rest is regrettable.

-- Paul Durras