Last weekend's Experimental Theatre production of George Bernard Shaw's Village Wooing was a warm and delightful artistic experience which captured the spirit of Shaw's comic genius.
Director Maurice Breslow capitalized upon the situation humor of a story in which an attractive village shopgirl determines to marry a fussy widower. She meets him on an ocean voyage around the world which she is taking on the money she has won in a newspaper contest; he is taking the trip in order to write the "Marco Polo Series of Chatty Guide Books."
The pace was fast and contrasts in facial reactions were so skillfully done that much of what seemed to be dry material in the written script became laugh-provoking wit on stage.
Don Cate's lighting and Leigh Rand's scenery utilized the theatre's facilities ingeniously. The first scene, aboard the ship Empress Pantagonia, opens on the couple seated on deck chairs in front of several blue, paint-spattered screens whose swirling color suggests the ocean. Later the same screens serve as an inconspicuous backdrop for an attractive and colorful village-shop counter where the writer again meets the shopgirl.
As the exasperated Mr. A, Robert Lanchester was at times too conscious of his exaggerated English accent and elderly mannerisms, he occasionally forced some of his emotions. However, his quick reactions and the ease with which his character changed as the play progressed made his performance convincing and warmly humorous.
It was Pamela Harris' charming portrayal of Miss Z which gave the production its lively quality. Her superb ear for dialect and speech rhythm, the expert manner in which she used her full vocal range, and the lovely lilt of her voice as she ended her statements with "mightn't I?" or "wouldn't it?" helped her to bring the character to life with remarkable naturalness. The sparkle of her eyes as she spoke and the adroitness with which she changed facial expressions and movements created humor in the domineering character of Miss Z. Subsequently, it became perfectly understandable to the audience that the persistent shop girl would not only improve the writers manners and make him a satisfied shop keeper, but get him to fall in love with her in the bargain. The play's final moments, when the guidebook writer becomes aware of his affection for her and finally accepts her proposal of marriage, were played with an intensity that ended the already successful production on a warmly delicious note.