Sometimes, you just want to check your brain at the door and enjoy something that’s goofy in a haphazardly charming sort of way. And “Make Me a Match,” now playing at Hopewell’s Off-Broadstreet Theater, is exactly that sort of show; it’s wacky, improbable, and a little thin when it comes to plot … but you’ll have a good time if you just dive in and embrace the weirdness.
So, here we go: Stevie (Madeline Orton) is a 30-something high-powered female executive with her live-in mother Grace (Catherine Rowe) and a lot of time on her hands, after taking a multimillion-dollar Silicon Valley severance package and retiring. She hears her biological clock tick and, with the aid of her meddling mom, she hires a well-heeled and highly recommended matchmaker, Robin (Barry Abramowitz), who is, to her surprise, male. He’s sarcastic and cutting and full of rakish charm, and soon he’s softening her up and sending her on dates, with a suitor much older (Charlie Leeder) and one that seems just right (John Bergeron) if not for a few eccentricities. In true “Pygmalion” fashion, however, we’re all pretty sure from the get-go who will end up with whom.
So yes, you’re not going to find much in the way of twists in the primary plot of this play. What you will find is some cute banter, a pair of Superman boxer briefs, ping-pong style conversations about gender roles, a few uncomfortable jokes about sperm counts, and maybe the most tasteful use for a distasteful prop and some wrapping paper you’ll ever see in a PG-rated show (not spoiling it here; it’s a good laugh, if juuuuuuust a little naughty). Lawrence Roman’s script shoots for screwball and falls short in the ability to make all the pieces play off one another, but the team is charming enough to hold everything together admirably.
Catherine Rowe is elegant and sexy, and Charlie Leeder provides her a fine and adorable foil as one of Stevie’s mismatched matches. John Bergeron, as the second match, is full of comic bluster and bizarre mannerisms, and it’s both hard to watch and explosively hilarious, in the style of the finest awkwardness-based comedy of Ricky Gervais, spliced with hints of John Cleese. And Barry Abramowitz, now a mainstay at OBT, proves adept at taking even the most preposterous and ungrounded of plots and giving them foundations of stone, as he takes his lines and crafts a believable, love-lost rascal that is equal parts Yente from Fiddler and Han Solo from Star Wars. And somehow, it works.
And then there’s Ms. Orton, in the lead role of Stevie. Orton dives into a difficult and underwritten part with courage; she’s beautiful and fearless, and despite being at least 10 years young for the role, performs admirably. She’s a fantastic velvet glove cast in iron here, and gets even better when the role allows for a little (I’d argue much too little) vulnerability. She channels the best of Katherine Hepburn in moments of pantsuit-clad fury, and it’s definitely fun to watch. I look forward to watching her become a regular staple at OBT, in roles that are crafted to her strengths. She’d be fantastic in Oleanna, or Wait Until Dark, or any number of roles closer to her own age. When Robin softens her up and alcohol comes into play in act two, it’s a welcome change to see Stevie’s hair come down (literally) and a predictable twist in plot becomes relentlessly charming thanks to the talents of Orton and Abramowitz and their ability to carefully craft chemistry.
Go in expecting a nice dessert (a mandatory accompaniment to every OBT performance) and you’ll be in just the right mood for this saucy go at an oddball romantic comedy. While the script is uneven, the moments of broad humor are excellently put-together, and the cast is legitimately wonderful. You won’t find any shocking developments here in terms of plot, but you will discover plenty of giggles and a good number of solid belly laughs.
And do remember to keep an eye out for the gift unwrapping, and mentally hear me say “I told you so” at that very moment.
Make Me a Match, Off-Broadstreet Theater, 5 South Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell. Fridays through Sundays through August 19. $29.50 to $31.50. www.off-broadstreet.com or 609-466-2766.