Search This Site

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Review- Mrs. Warren's Profession (BOO-Arts)

The Fab Marquee review by Dianna Martin.

When George Bernard Shaw wrote Mrs. Warren's Profession, he wasn't only writing a play presenting the problem of society's penchant for respectably marrying women into marriages for financial convenience and comparing that life to a woman working in a brothel (with the brothel perhaps being the better deal for the woman sometimes); he wasn't only making commentary on the modern day woman of the time who wanted more respect and independence in the workforce and education; he was also writing a play about a relationship between a daughter and mother. That is something that the Boo-Art's production of this play seems to have taken into account and the actors have worked on, and is also one reason among many why this production was such a joy to attend.

Photo Credit: Clint Alexander

Each character, albeit wonderfully written by Shaw, was given such a breath of life on stage under the direction of Kathleen O'Neill. Joy Franz was such a pleasure to watch as Mrs. Warren, and during a scene with the young, independent Vivie (fantastically played by Caralyn Kozlowski) when she has to explain what her life was like and why she had to choose work in a brothel, the rapid decline of her dialect from society lady to lower-class (which Shaw has made a point of in the original script) was so moving as she made her points and slowly explained herself to her daughter. You saw two women who were polar opposites while still being so similar; Kozlowski's Vivie as a modern young woman of her time focused on being independent and doing anything a man could do while maintaining respectability; and her mother, the prostitute who had risen financially to have anything in the world she wanted...except respectability and her daughter's respect, most of all. The final scene takes this mother daughter relationship to another level and is as heartbreaking as it is intense. Kozlowski's complex character was layered and given great depth - a wonderful character study.

Photo Credit: Clint Alexander

The men in the play do very well overall: James Dutton (Frank Gardner), as Vivie's younger semi-romantic interest is delightful as an adorable and harmless loafer, who is as eager to marry for money as any woman of the time. Joseph Francini was enjoyable as Praed; he had the character down pat. I just wish he would have allowed himself the opportunity to be more in the moment on stage at times. The night I saw him part of his costume came undone - which means nothing to me aesthetically; but I was actually taken out of the play for a moment because I was wondering why a character such as his would not have tried to fix it while he was talking to Vivie, acknowledging the problem within the scene. David Palmer Brown was much fun to dislike as Croft, yet he also gave him more depth than simply a crafty and lecherous man. His repartee with Kozlowski was simply done and engaging. Ashton Crosby (Rev. Gardner) was a fun character that was played very much how one would expect - however it would have been nice to see him take a little more of his son's rudeness to heart.

The staging was fantastic. Director Kathleen O'Neill apparently wanted to set the stage up as a tennis match, apparently due to the repartee that goes on between the actors - and she has done so much more. With the audience on two sides of the stage, from the moment the show begins, we are drawn into another world - which can be difficult to do with a piece written over 100 years ago - and remain happily throughout the end of the play, which goes by quickly given it was over two hours. Even the long moments in between scenes while furniture was moved and sets were changed didn't bother me - because when the lights came up, we were suddenly given another point of view and got to be a part of it again. Kudos to the costumes (David Withrow, designer) - he had everything down to Shaw's description of Vivie's "chatelaine at her belt, with a fountain pen...among its pendants."

BOO-Art's production has remained faithful to the text while allowing all the subtle nuances of this wonderful Shaw piece. It is a production that should not be missed.

BOO-Arts presents
George Bernard Shaw's
Mrs. Warren's Profession
April 1-18th, 2009
Manhattan Theatre Source

Tickets are $18 and are now available online at or by calling 212-501-4751. Tickets may also be purchased in-person at the Manhattan Theatre Source, 177 MacDougal Street.

Manhattan Theatre Source | 177 MacDougal Street | Manhattan.

No comments: