Thornton Wilder’s “The Matchmaker” at Taproot

Oh that Dolly Levi! Master manipulator, twister of words, quintessential earthbound cupid. If anyone can create or advance a romance, it’s Dolly Levi, and Pam Nolte on Taproot’s stage is Dolly incarnate. With a sly glance, a twist of the head, a demure chuckle, and an uncontrollable insouciance Nolte makes Dolly unstoppable.

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Pam Nolte as Dolly

Though an earlier version of Thornton Wilder’s play bombed, this later version was an instant success when it premiered in New York in 1955. Set in Yonkers and Manhattan at the turn of the 20th century, it follows the romantic aspirations of three, maybe four, couples and their clumsy efforts to achieve amorous bliss. But of course the indomitable Dolly brings all to a happy conclusion. It’s a farce with mistaken identities, deflated pomposities, slammed doors, men disguised as women, and characters in hiding.

Director Scott Nolte’s Taproot cast, dressed elegantly in Sarah Burch Gordon’s lavish period costumes, has the timing right for farce and their faces are as elastic as if they were made from silly putty. There are many fine performances but special mention must be made of Kim Morris as Miss Flora Van Huysen whose imperious ignorance is simply delicious. It all plays out on Mark Lund’s clever set with its evocative backdrop.

“The Matchmaker” was given new life in 1964 as the musical “Hello Dolly.” But this non-musical oldie is still a goodie.

Ah, where is Dolly when we need her. If only she were in D.C. right now! She’d clear up that mess long before the Oct. 1 deadline!

Through Oct. 19 at Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St., Seattle, (206 781-9707 or www.taproottheatre.org)

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