Corrections or additions?

This article by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the March 6, 2002

edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

In New York: `The Matchmaker’

If you’re looking about for some warm-hearted Irish

wit and whimsy, you might think about spending a few convivial hours

at the Irish Repertory Theater where "The Matchmaker" has

set up shop. No, this is not the familiar Thornton Wilder comedy (and

source of the popular musical "Hello Dolly"), but rather a

ripe and ribald dramatization by Phyllis Ryan of a 1977 epistolary

novel by John B. Keane, "Letters of a Matchmaker."

A surprisingly saucy affair it is considering that the action mainly

takes the form of a reading of letters exchanged between a middle-aged

gentleman matchmaker, Dicky Mick Dicky (Des Keogh), and his sister

Marge in America, and his numerous clients, both satisfied and


fulfilled and unfulfilled.

The sister and the various local women in search of marriage and all

that such a contract offers are played by Anna Manahan, who won a

Tony award for playing the wretched mother in "The Beauty Queen

of Leenane." With Keogh tackling the title role, as well as the

male clients, these two fine actors are amusing to watch as they


with the romantic entreaties of the dysfunctional, the unhappy, the

lusty, and the lame.

While the text is so rich in local vernacular that it requires an

entire glossary page in the program to prepare you, you wouldn’t want

to be left out of the best belly laughs. After all, you wouldn’t want

to miss the meaning of such expressions as "tack of the dick"

— hadn’t enough penis for a decent wrinkle; "coaxiorum"

— old Irish love potion; "cawbogues" — a man with

no nuts; "poitcheen" — illegal whiskey; "latchiko"

— a totally lazy or useless person, and more.

The letters portray an Ireland of the 1950s and ’60s

when letters, not E-mails, were the most popular means of


Although the letters serve as an important conveyor of gossip,


inquiries, and business-like investigations, there is the added fun

of seeing how a matchmaker attempts to protect his clients. The unwary

victims, the sexual predators, the innocent and the worldly, the eager

and the cautious, are revealed as a unique and occasionally


group of characters, each evoked in the delightfully literate style

of author Keane (best known in the United States for the movie of

his play "The Field").

To the actors’ credit, some 20 or so characters, including a woman

with a wooden leg, a five-foot-tall jockey, a bi-sexual Brit, a lusty

widow, a 300-pound Turk, among others equally well-defined — are

all colorfully evoked. There is an earthy flavor to the play that

weaves gently around the affable Mr. Dicky, whose own happy marriage

is suddenly clouded by the illness of his wife, and the threats of

a local priest who believes that matchmaking is the work of the devil.

Tall and wiry, with a flair for accents and affectations, Keogh


to be having a keen a time, as does Manahan, who transforms herself

charmingly from one savory soul in search of a mate to the next.


the play has its tender and sad moments, it is mostly comical in its

depiction of a life-affirming people. Under Michael Scott’s sensitive

direction, the play and its players conjoin to offer glimpses and

glimmers of love and longing in what appears to be a rather bleak

environment. Three stars. You won’t feel cheated.

— Simon Saltzman

The Matchmaker, Irish Repertory Theater, 132 West 22nd

Street, New York. For tickets call 212-727-2737. $40. To March 31.

Top Of Page

The Asbury Park Black Box Theater, 508 Cookman Avenue,

Asbury Park, has auditions for "Waiting," a new play by Midge

Guerrera, on Saturday and Sunday, March 9 and 10, beginning at 2 p.m.

Cast for the funny, heartwarming play calls for three men and three

women, ages 18 to 80. Performances begin in April in Asbury Park,

at Rutgers, and possibly at the New York Fringe Festival in August.

For information call director George Hansel at 732-897-1835.

Villagers Theater announces auditions for its own version

of "Cinderella" on Sunday, March 10, at 2 p.m., and Monday,

March 11, at 7:30 p.m. Casting ages 16 and up for this comedy of


Call 732-873-2710.

Pennington Players has auditions for the musical


and Hyde" on Saturday, April 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and


April 7, from noon to 4 p.m., at Kelsey Theater, Mercer County


Prepare one musical theater song and bring sheet music or recorded

accompaniment. Performances are August at Washington Crossing Park

Open Air Theater. To schedule, call 609-737-7529.

Voices Chorale, the 55-member chorus directed by Lynne

Ransom, invites singers to auditions through the month of March. The

chorus rehearses once a week in Pennington. To schedule an audition,

call 609-637-9383.

Call for Entries

NJN Public Television invites children from kindergarten

through third grade to write and illustrate original stories for the

regional competition of Reading Rainbow Eighth Annual Young Writer

and Illustrators Contest. Deadline is March 15. Rules are on website: or call 609-777-3991.

The 10th Annual Phillips Mill Photography Exhibition is

accepting entries for its 2002 juried show that will take place May

12 to June 2 in the historic mill in New Hope. Jurors are Sandra


Jeff Hurwitz, and Laurence Miller. Entries may be hand delivered on

Friday, March 15, from 5 to 8 p.m., and Saturday, March 16, from 10

a.m. to 2 p.m. Entry fee is $25 for up to four photographs. For


phone 215-396-7040; fax 215-396-9899, or E-mail

The Dramatists Workshop at Peddie School invites New


playwrights to submit works for consideration for public reading on

the Peddie campus in the 2002-’03 season. Deadline is April 1. Send

to: Robert Rund, Dramatists Workshop, Peddie School, Box A, South

Main Street, Hightstown 08520. Information 609-490-7550.

Parachute Modern Art Gallery, an artist-run gallery


innovative art in all media and located in the Stockham Arts Building,

10 Pennsylvania Avenue, Morrisville, is seeking artists for June


Call 215-295-8444.

Volunteer Call

The New Jersey Jazz Society seeks volunteers for its


2002, at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, June 21 to 23.

Work 1/2 day or more and receive free admission for the entire weekend

($70 pass). Call Fran DePalma-Iozzi, 973-226-6043.

Capital Health System seeks volunteers at both location

in both patient and non-patient contact areas. Junior Volunteers for

the summer program for teens over 14 years old are also needed. Call

Lynne Kluin at 609-394-6690.

Breast Cancer Resource Center seeks volunteers to help

with mailings, at health fair, and in the office. Call 609-252-2005.

Top Of Page

Mercer County Bar Foundation offers scholarships to law

school students involved in community organizations who show financial

need. Call 609-585-6200.

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