Mrs. Warrens Profession SHAW’S SCHOOL FOR STANDARDS – February 13, 1997

Pacific Resident Theatre Ensemble Presents

Mrs. Warrens Profession


Classy “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” upends Victorian morals
Times Theater Review by Philip Brandes

“There should be better opporutnities for women” George Bernard Shaw proclaimed in 1898 and subversively set about satirizing in the most scandalous possible terms the barrow career options and double standards Victorian society imposted upon the opposite sex. Thus, in his incisive comedy of morals, “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” turns out to be a time-honored – if not a particularly honorable – one: His well-connected title character is the proprietor of a chain of high-class brothels.

Illuminating in many ways, Shaw used his theme of prostituion as a wedge to pry open the cliches of conventional morality. Michael Rothhaar’s flawless staging for Pacific Resident Theatre Ensemble practically glows with well-burnished classical luster.

At the outset, 22-year-old Vivie Warren (Beth Colt) is a confident paragon of respectability. About to embark on a comfortable career as an actuary and all but engaged to a minister;s son (Alexander Enberg), her assumptions of propriety are riotously upended with the discovery of the secret life of her estranged mother, Kitty (Nancy Linehan Charles), has been leading to pay for her upkeep and education. Vivie’s initial revulsion gives way to compassion as Kitty reveals the impoverished circumstances that left her no alternative in life.

Yet Shaw’s plays were never about only one thing, and in the course of this proud young woman’s wresting with her mother’s untidy secret, social insights and human truths radiate in all directions.

More importantly, Rothhaar deftly sidesteps the trap that ideas can come across as heady, bloodless banter without the emotional underpinnings of character.

That’s exactly the visceral reality supplied here by an impeccable cast. The dual conflicted loyalties between Colt’s pragmatic Vivie and Charles’ volatile Kitty smolders with tortured mother-daughter longings and expectations.

Just as startling is the clarity of these characters’ awareness of their own parameters. As Kitty’s longtime business and pleasure partner with unabasedly lecherous designs on Vivie, William Dennis Hunt luxuriates in aritoscraftic …….. his profligate ways. While Dennis Madden evokes a delightfully buffoonish amalgam of snobbery and hypocrisy as his father, the less than pure Reverend.

Honoring the complexity of Shaw’s multifaceted characters, these insightful performances are precisely nuanced down to the fine shadings of class dialects. Even Shaw’s own perfectionist professor of phonetics, Henry Higgins, would have been pleased.

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