The Matchmaker of Montreal

Kirsten Robek and Lisa Bunting Credit: Tatiana Balashova
Kirsten Robek and Lisa Bunting
Credit: Tatiana Balashova

At The Firehall Arts Centre until June 2

Posted May 27, 2013

There are times when I don’t like this job. This is one of those times. The Matchmaker of Montreal is simply one of the worst scripts I’ve had to endure to for a very long time.

Written by chemist, then lawyer, then writer Shaul Ezer, this is a world premiere of a new Canadian play and I would really like to celebrate it, I really would. But I just can’t.

It falls weirdly, awkwardly between the farces of Italy’s Dario Fo (I Can’t Pay, I Won’t Pay) and Noel Coward’s exposés of the superficiality of high society. But it’s not as funny as Fo – and I don’t find Fo all that funny, for that matter – and it’s not as arch and witty as Coward. It’s set in the present, I think, but it feels a hundred years old. What’s with the antique wheelchair, for example?

And the pity is, I’ve seen all these actors do good work: Kirsten Robek, Juno Ruddell, Lisa Bunting, David Adams and Robert Moloney. But what’s a poor actor to do with a repeated line like, “Love is war by other means”? and a situation so stupid, so unbelievable that you hope somebody pulls the fire alarm so you can leave.

Here’s how it goes: Elise, married for twenty years to André suddenly ups and decides to leave him, saying, “I need a richer life.” He can have the kids (oh joy, two teenagers) and she wants the house plus half his income. She goes to Martha, a matchmaker, looking for a rich man and Martha says she not only needs a rich man she needs a rich old man. While waiting for Mr. Old And Rich, Martha sets up three dates for Elise who scares the heck out of them when she jumps their bones. Eventually, Martha sends Elise to the funeral of the wife of a very rich, very old codger. Elise goes into her teary act and in the next scene she’s rich and married; shortly thereafter she’s widowed and it’s back to the funeral parlour with exactly – word for word – the same pitch.

Lisa Bunting and David Adams Credit: Tatiana Balashova
Lisa Bunting and David Adams
Credit: Tatiana Balashova

There’s a strong misogynistic quality to The Matchmaker of Montreal and I don’t like it. Elise (Robek) is far too phony, Martha (Bunting) is far too manipulative and Martha’s assistant Sylvana (Ruddell) is flakey. Whatever spark of romance there’s supposed to be between Martha and David Howard (Adams), the Prime Minister of Canada (yep), is as bright as a spent Halloween firecracker left out in the rain. Moloney does his best – and sometimes it’s not too bad – as André and various others.

Sarah Phillips directs. Christopher David Gauthier’s set looks nicely art nouveau-ish with curvy screens and a lovely cherrywood settee and, as costume designer, he keeps Robek looking swanky in some stunning ensembles. Itai Erdal’s lighting is, of course, lovely.

But, oh, the script.

Overheard after curtain: “Oh, very, very good” and “very funny”.

I just can’t concur.

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