Review: Hello, Dolly!
Well, it’s that time of year again. The country’s largest student-produced circlejerk has rolled back into town with the same fanfare and excitement that usually accompanies the onset of menopause. Coy half-smiles overlaid with too many different fonts have blanketed the world everywhere from south campus to slightly south-er campus. And, as always, every single person at this school even tangentially involved in it is acting like goddamn Atlas lifting the weight of the show single-handedly on their noble and long-suffering shoulders. You were assistant props liaison, Richard, and I bet you didn’t even turn your receipts in on time.
Hoping to maintain the caliber of high-quality reportage this news institution is renowned for, I purchased my tickets well in advance, almost a full six hours before the closing performance according to my venmo account. I’ve yet to turn down an opportunity to be aggressively beamed at by a “ragtag team” of inexplicably small ensemble members for over two hours, and I wasn’t about to start now. And it is with a heavy heart I must announce that, unfortunately, the show was an utter delight. How am I meant to top that goddamn Little Shop of Horrors review if I was deviously manipulated into believing once again in the fundamental power of love and joy? Ugh. I know that gay men are a particularly vulnerable audience to the wiles of a larger-than-life dame grandstanding, but I thought I’d cultivated enough mean-spirited queeny cynicism to overcome that. Alas, I was betrayed by my nature.
A begrudging congratulations, it follows, must go to my talented peers for their disgustingly transcendent performances. If there was a single flaw in anything Christina Layton did as the eponymous Dolly, I assure you you’d be the first to know. Maybe one of these days I’ll see her slip up, make a mistake, fail a little bit, and I’ll be able to finally get a decent night’s sleep knowing, at last, that she is human like the rest of us bum fucks who can’t make a flawless comedic moment out of eating fake turkey.
My sharp-tongued vitriol, then, will have to be saved to lambasting the writing choices of a musical written over fifty years ago. Let me start my compulsory “plot analysis” section by saying that making any emotional demands for sense, logic, reason, or linearity is mistake numero uno when viewing Hello Dolly. I started lost and just got lost-er. It is non-sequitur after non-sequitur, and you are made at all costs to enjoy it without having a single idea what the utter fuck is going on. Plot points are made irrelevant and relevant again with reckless abandon, much like the hours of Norris Dunkin’s. Generally, I think it’s about how love triumphs all and how powerful joy can be and that Money Is Bad? But comedy demands specificity, and terribly written comedy demands that I do my duty to name each and every nonsensical plot point of this play. Don’t bother keeping names straight: I had to wikipedia the play to remember any of them and at the end of the day, it literally does not matter all.
We open in the most riveting way possible, with a woman casually monologuing about her dead husband for a good five minutes. This, we learn, is Dolly Levi, who, despite probably spending more on business cards per month than what most immigrant factory laborers made in a generation during that time period, is less rich than she used to be now? Or lonely, or something? It’s unclear, and her motivations only get more opaque as the show goes on. In any case, she’s decided to marry a man she hates, Horace Vandergelder, for his money, even though she’s not suffering financially and wants to be remarried for companionship more than anything else. Why not join a fun extracurricular club to meet those needs for connection, Dolly? I know the NU Kink Education Society is taking new members- I’ve started budgeting an extra twenty minutes when going anywhere in Kresge, as seeing their flyers bearing the google image search results for “gimp suit” make me go temporarily catatonic every time I see them.
She decides to start meddling in others’ lives again like the psychopathic manipulatress she is. The first person to fall in her cruel, cruel web is Horace’s niece Ermengarde, whose name is the fucking whitest shit I have ever heard in my life. Ermengarde’s duties in the show range from “screaming in a wig” to “crying in a wig,” and she wants to get married to her doughy RTVF boyfriend Ambrose, but Horace won’t let her. Other victims include: Cornelius, who is 33 years old and has never kissed a girl because the feed shop grind don’t stop; Barnaby, a teenage simpleton who is the Pinky to Cornelius’ Brain; Minnie, another teenage simpleton (but this one’s a GIRL! Romance is in the air); and Irene, who has been shunned from larger society for being a single female hatmaker.
Jesus this play is long. I’m gonna start cutting to some chases here. Dolly gets everyone to have dinner at the same bizarre restaurant, where it’s clear the FDA hasn’t been established yet because the waitstaff, consisting entirely of springy brunettes in jazz pants, repeatedly rubs their asses against the serveware as they pretend to sled around the restaurant. There’s a considerable amount of hubbub, maybe even a little hullabaloo, before Dolly arrives. She descends that goddamn staircase like a freshman quoting John Mulaney during the first day of wildcat welcome: she fucking OWNS this place. Much fuss is made of her dress, and she’s wearing the finest evening gown a woman of her status owns: a hummus-colored nightie with sequin appliqués hot glued onto the chest. Some polka contest shit happens and then, for literally no reason whatsoever, everyone gets arrested, and then almost immediately excused, except for Horace, whom Dolly has prosecuted, except he’s still somehow able to go home for the very next scene, where no mention whatsoever is made of his previous arrest. In the final moments of the play, Dolly and her new husband Horace (oh right, she was secretly romancing him the whole time I guess) go full Zedong and claim that wealth is evil unless distributed equally. The rest of the cast mutely files onstage and smiles blithely at the institution of marriage. End credits!
The Dolphin Show has a storied, biblical history of serious microphone issues, but the cycle of sound-engineering trauma was broken this year after the whole show went by with barely a blip in audio quality. The set team went ham on some hatboxes, turning them into an enormous wall, but their pastel Tower of Babel was no match for the tiniest possible ensemble member, who hulked out and utterly fucking decimated one of them during a scene change. The actors valiantly carried on during this impromptu anarchist protest valiantly as pale, amphibious techies in headsets and inside-out black t-shirts scuffled around apologetically trying to salvage the rubble.
All in all, a stupendous, if lengthy and confusing, show. While some of our critics may claim that “this show is already over, why did you write this” and that “this is a mediocre plot summary and doesn’t count as satire”, we here at Sherman Ave have enough confidence in our readers to know that no one except people in the cast have read this far anyways.
Hello, Dolly! closed February 2nd after an embarrassingly short 5-show run.