Thornton Wilder's "The Matchmaker" should bubble like two cents plain, glide like a tandem bike and split seconds like Flying Wallendas. The Barter Players' production, alas, is a slapstick in the mud.
Wilder's tale comes from the same Austrian farce that inspired "Hello, Dolly!" and "On the Razzle," with a Yonkers merchant out wife-hunting while two lackeys slip away for adventure. The ubiquitous busybody of the doings, Dolly Levi, plays matchmaker to the merchant and emcee for much of the highjinks.
At George Mason University's Harris Theater, the actors slouch toward mayhem in a manner as flat and shouty as the painted 2-D sets. Instead of precision timing, the comedy -- unintentional -- has waiters dropping napkins and whiskers coming unglued.
The play hits stride but once, when George Hosmer as the store clerk and Gerry Goodman as the apprentice hide from their boss in the hat shop of Mrs. Malloy, appealingly played by Joan Grant. The spectacle of Hosmer in a closet and Goodman under a table -- shouting "Pudding!" at each other (their code-word for adventure) -- with Grant their reluctant accomplice shows zany promise. But after a few niggardly laughs, it's back to lumbering again. $90L.G. THE MATCHMAKER -- At George Mason University's Harris Theater through December 19.