"Mrs. Warren's Profession" at Theater 2 (The Kirk Theater) at Theater Row is one of George Bernard Shaw's most controversial works: it was frowned upon at the time of Shaw's play for a woman to own and run a business. One would have thought that it would be more of a stir up that the play's plot was that Mrs. Warren ran a brothel. The Gingold Theatrical Group uses Mr. Shaw's writing to help promote freedom of speech and creates theater to further the cause of supporting human rights. To Gingold, Shaw was a humanitarian and as such they continue to produce works like: "Major Barbara" and "Widower's Houses".
Taking place in both Surrey and London, England in the year 1912, we find Vivie Warren(Nicole King) and Praed, a good friend of Mrs. Warren on stage talking about how Vivie was raised unconventionally, but the audience didn't need to be told that; she was a Cambridge University honors graduate in mathematics and is at the top of her field. Vivie has a burning ambition of being independent with little interest in men or anything else other than her Chancery Lane project, whiskey, a good cigar and a comfortable chair Nicole King who has had vast stage experience with various Shakespearian Companies is very good in her role, however, a few times she stumbled on her lines at this performance. Vivie commands and controls anyone who comes in her way, whether it be marriage proposals, a challenge to her career, or how she sees life in general; she is sure about her philosophies and her values and the audience never once doubts her resolve and attitude.
The costumes (Asa Benally), sound design (Frederick Kennedy), Lighting (Jamie Roderick) and scenic design (Brian Prather) all make this a nice, compact play... not to many actors (6) and not an expansive stage. This gives the actors under direction of David Staller an intimate atmosphere in which to move about. The opulent garden like setting serves as Mrs. Warren's home, the Gardner residence and later on in the hour and forty minute intermission less performance, as Vivie's place of work.
Shaw as is his "MO" with many of his works, explores his character's; often exposing their weaknesses and giving them a false sense of strength. Here people like Sir George Crofts (Robert Cuccioli) are shrewd in their dealings as well as hypocritical and like Crofts, all of Shaw's characters have a ready answer for the dirty dealings that come out during the show; even the Reverend has secrets... he buys his sermons. The only person who is an open book here is the educated one, Vivie. Standing on principal she only asks pointed questions: who her father was and why hasn't her mother been there for her all of these years gone by.?
"Mrs. Warren's Profession", like a Tennessee Williams play's has more dealings underneath the surface than above it. Vivie and her mother, Kitty Warren (Karen Ziemba) are as similar as they are opposites. Where Kitty had to be more street wise to get by, Vivie used her more common sense and a more refined approach to getting success. Whereas they are both independent, Kitty is very protective of her daughter and anyone who tries to get over on Vivie has to deal with her mother. Yet Vivie is too smart for people, she reads them with ease and never gets rattled by what people say or how they act; being on her own for so long has indeed made her an independent thinker and she is not to be trifled with.
Shaw clearly shows the two different sides of this mother/daughter banter: the two different generations of thought, the two different points of view about each other and the very clear two different up bringing's. Coming from nothing it was important for Kitty to provide; Vivie wanted more personal success, more understanding to life; she shunned people like Crofts, she understood the hypocrisy of the Reverend and dismissed both Praed and the Reverend's son, Frank.
Shaw can be wordy at times, this show did get slow at two different parts of the play, yet for the most part, "Warren's" was enjoyable to watch, mostly to see the character's unfold as the show progressed. What was most bothersome about this play however, was the interracial cast. To the audience having Reverend Samuel Gardner who is black have his son, Frank, an Asian doesn't really settle to the audiences eye very well. In Shaw's play, Praed is a pompous man, who was white and a good friend to both Kitty Warren and Sir George Crofts goes anathema to what was put on by Gingold. Interracial casting will only work when it is casted properly; here it was not done well.
About the Creator
I have been writing on theater since 1982. A graduate from Manhattan College B.S. A member of Alpha Sigma Lambda, which recognizes excellence in both English and Science. I have produced 12 shows on and off Broadway. I've seen over700 shows