“Mrs Warrens Profession”
At Theater Row Through November
George Bernard Shaw was a staunch anti-vaxxer. Despite that Shaw’s indelible touch on the modern artistry of comedic writing and orating is still alive today. Also alive is his unsympathetic satirical wit which is, though an old sort of wit, everlasting and undeniable. It’s also no secret that Shaw was a communist and socialist. Even going as far as to suggest that every five years each persons usefulness to society should be reassessed and if that person doesn’t meet the criteria set forth they should be killed. Much like Jonathan Swifts suggestions in his essay, “A Modest Proposal”, though Swift was only considering babies. These were their efforts at satire. Though when you truly consider that notion, as a productive member of society it is hard to disagree with. I’m sure I’d see it differently were I unproductive. Though productivity is subjective and depends largely on circumstance. I digress. Vaccinations aren’t touched upon in “Mrs Warren’s Profession”, Shaw touches upon a much more salacious and tawdry piece of society, prostitution. Something that had the show banned when it premiered in 1893. Shaw shows us clearly through this play that the subjects he was railing against at the turn of the 19th Century are still alive almost 130 years later. We’re still fighting for the same things. People still look down on sex for money though chances are everyone has had someone close to them take part or they themselves have in the trade in some fashion.
On October 22nd at 8pm at Theatre Row in New York City I saw my first live show since Martin McDonoughs, “Hangmen” was in previews March 12th 2020, the day Broadway and Off Broadway shut down. It’s been 19 months since I went to a live show. Shaw’s “Mrs Warren’s Profession” takes place at the turn of the 19th Century and is about a very wealthy independent thinking mother visiting her headstrong daughter and their suitors efforts to marry them up for their worth. The story ensues when Mrs. Warrens Daughter, Vivie Warren, played with considerable strength by, Nicole King, has a visit from her estranged mother Mrs. Kitty Warren played by three time Tony Winner, Karen Ziemba. Karen plays Warren with a fun childish tone almost as if she was someone who never had to grow up. We reach the rising action when Vivie finds out her mother runs a slew of brothels across Europe. Not happy with this, Vivie, feels she must disconnect from her mother. The story is truly that of a moral one. Mrs Warren has led thousands of girls down the road of prostitution. She is essentially a Ghislaine Maxwell of her time. How can anyone, even a daughter get behind that. Though the subject matter is prostitution, the word is never actually said, only eluded too. Theoretically speaking, Mrs Warren’s profession could just be that of a hotel owner, but as the audience we know better.
The cast is rounded out by Robert Cuccioli who is great as Vivie’s much older suitor and friend to Mrs. Warren. A egotistical character who sees himself as a great catch, but isn’t. David Lee Huynh has a voice as Frank Gardner that is undeniable and amazing, almost Thurston Howell the 3rd esque. He stands out as does each word that leaves his characters pretentious mouth. Huynh’s ability to play smug yet caring and likable made the whole piece that much more fun to watch. Alvin Keith, a mainstay of the theatrical world, played Praed, with incredible affection and hopefulness, he lives his name, praying everything comes together. You really feel like he cared about the characters he was interacting with. Raphael Nash Thompson also took his roll to town as Reverend Samuel Gardner, a very funny character whose size forces a commanding presence in every moment on stage. Produced by Gingold Theatrical Group with David Staller as Artistic Director who also directed this piece, he pulls together a timely effort that resonates with current societal woes.
It’s amazing how much this piece, one of Shaws earlier works, still resonates today as prostitution is still considered too many to be a classless way of life. Though in my personal opinion we are all prostitutes in one way or another, through work or friendships. We all sell ourselves in ways we’d rather not. We compromise. As Mrs Warren did, she compromised her entire life so that she could be her own woman not held down by any man and the only way to do that was to be held down by men and have sex for money. Though definitely more accepted today than one hundred and thirty years ago.
This piece is really all about dialogue. One could listen to a radio play version of this show and you’d lose nothing. Though somewhat a farce one does really need to listen carefully to the small cast. Like much of Shaw’s pieces the set and costumes could be anything and you wouldn’t lose its true meaning because with Shaw it’s all about how he’s playing with language. Though the set by, Brian Prather, was fun and engaging as I viewed it pre show. The living room had a homey country welcoming feel. I felt like I was coming home myself, having not seen a live piece in so long. It was nice to see an audience out. Though I did find it hard to laugh out loud at the Shaw dialogue, the Comedy is still there in Mrs. Warren’s Profession” and there were many laughs abound. I’ve just been so desensitized by comedy my entire life and what society finds funny changes so much every generation and especially in the last 130 years since he first wrote this piece. Mrs. Warren’s Profession has stood the test of time though. I’d hope years down the line generations from now people will look at negative aspects of prostitution as antiquated, just as we see slavery as antiquated today as opposed to 130 years ago. See this show while you still can. These guys are going to win awards this season.
Mrs Warren’s Profession plays at
Theater Row 410 W 42nd St
Link to website for tickets
Run Time: 1 hour 40 minutes