Village Wooing From the Orchard Theater Collective Had Me Swooning

Village Wooing Poster Image

Generally when we talk about great acting we think of dramatic roles, something that requires a lot of emotions and an intensity that’s palpable in the back row of the theater. Well, Village Wooing is the exact opposite of that and it contains two of the best performances I’ve seen all year, maybe ever. When the play ended I turned to M’ Colleagues and said, “that’s real acting”. Staged in the space equivalent to a large living room where at any given moment I could have reached out and touched one of the two actors. It’s a light, witty, and charming romantic two person show that asks little more than a pleasant hour and change with its audience. These two actors, Anna Leverett and Ben Shaw, never for a moment break character or acknowledge our existence. There is never a sense of the actor, only the character, only the reality they are inhabiting. That kind of focus is is aided by intense emotions or dramatic interactions, to do it while maintaining the proper tone of levity and humor, is deceptively difficult. 

...contains two of the best performances I’ve seen all year, maybe ever.

Written by George Bernard Shaw in 1933, Village Wooing is a short 3 act play, the first act takes place on the deck of a cruise ship and is staged out of doors on a picturesque little patio on the grounds of the Germanic-American Institute on Summit Avenue in St. Paul. After a brief intermission, in which the audience is treated to complimentary summer beverages and treats, as they transition from the patio to the basement of the institute. Acts 2 and 3 take place in a village shop, the show itself runs about 65 minutes, not including the intermission. By all accounts, Shaw didn’t think much of this play when he wrote it, and it isn’t one of his that I’d ever heard of. I can only imagine Shaw’s opinion was due to not having seen it brought to life by Leverett and Shaw, and it’s lesser known status due to its short length. The length issue is solved beautifully by The Orchard Theater Collective, with the aforementioned refreshments and change of location. Ordinarily when a show running 65 minutes pulls an intermission it will result in a very vocal remonsteration, but in this case when the Brie and fancy salted caramel chocolates came out, all was forgiven.

This was the perfect show to close out the end of the theater season

Aside from the brilliant cast, a really engaging and witty script, and wonderful nibbles, there is a lot of other aspects to recommend this production. The preshow and interscene music is filled with timeless classics as if DJ’d by Dooley Wilson. The set for Act 1 is simply a couple of deck lounge chairs, but the basement is cleverly decorated as a village shop by Terri Ristow. The costumes in all three acts are by Jorie Kosel and capture the period nicely. The play is directed by Damian Leverett who keeps it simple and true creating something really wonderful between the two characters by not cluttering the staging up, but letting it be about the two characters. The performances as I have said are skillfully executed, living and breathing as much in the characters reactions as it is in their dialogue. This was the perfect show to close out the end of the theater season – light, witty, staged in a fun venue with delicious snacks. I highly recommend this as a tonic to the end of summer blues.

Village Wooing runs for two weekends only thru September 2nd. for more information and to purchase tickets go to

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Headshot of Rob Dunkelberger
Rob Dunkelberger

Rob is a member of the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers and their podcast Twin Cities Theater Chat as well as a syndicating contributor to Minnesota Playlist. Read all his content