Mrs. Warren’s Profession
Your grandmother’s “Pretty Woman”
|ShawChicago Theater Company presents|
|Mrs. Warren’s Profession|
Review by Katy Walsh
The play is morally rotten…the story…the incidents…
ShawChicago presents Mrs. Warren’s Profession. Kitty Warren is a businesswoman, a single mother – and a whore. Vivie Warren is a college graduate, a detached daughter, and a feminist. As Vivie embarks on her career path, mom decides to visit and provide counsel. Kitty’s arrival in town attracts an entourage of friends and/or clients and/or Vivie’s father. One of the men could be all the above and also the dad to Vivie’s current suitor. Looking at the financial side to sex complicates everyone’s relationship. Mrs. Warren’s Profession is your grandmother’s “Pretty Woman.”
Playwright George Bernard Shaw shocked the world with his provocative tale of prostitution. The 1905 New York debut resulted in the entire company being arrested. The 1925 London premiere was thirty-two years after Shaw wrote it. It’s wasn’t that it was too bawdy. There were no scantily-clad women simulating sexual acts. It was the dialogue that was determined to be obscene. And it wasn’t because it was crude locker room vulgarity. The scandalous content was the rationalization of prostitution as a business.
The old-fashion version of woman’s right to choose focuses on sex as a moneymaker. Shaw logically comes at the topic from all angles.
Under the direction of Robert Scogin, the talented cast bring the oldest profession into a civilized light. As is the hallmark of ShawChicago, shows are performed as concert readings. No blocking. No scenery. No costumes. It’s a little bit like prostitution as the actor must summon up all her capabilities to sell us on her role. The lady of the evening is Jaqueline Jones (Kitty). Jones plays it with perfect moxie. Despite the typical ShawChicago no frills staging, an effervescent Jones frequently disappears and returns adorned in flashy jewelry and colorful outfits. The visual builds the character’s persona that this woman unapologetically breaks-the-rules. Her crass English accent contrasts with her daughter’s sophisticated one. Jhenai Mootz (Vivie) delivers an uptight and upright performance. Mootz amusingly sways to the rationalizer in the room. Throughout her confident performance, Mootz gives us glimpses of a vulnerable girl. The animated Gary Alexander charms with his philandering. Alexander is ‘ever so’ hilarious strategizing his own version of sex for hire.
Although the jolting subject matter has tamed with time, the argument still creates somewhat of a stir. Shaw makes a strong case for self-sufficiency through intuitive channels. In this economy, Mrs. Warren’s Profession will make you think.
Mrs. Warren’s Profession continues through May 7th at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts (map), with performances Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm, Mondays 7pm. Tickets are $12.50-$25, and are available online at BrownPaperTickets.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at ShawChicago.org. (Running time: 2 hours, includes intermission)
All photos by Lila M. Stromer
Jacqueline Jones (Mrs. Warren); Jhenai Moots (Vivie Warren); Joseph Bowen (Praed); Jack Hickey (Sir George Crofts); Gary Alexander (Frank Gardner); Skip Lundby (Reverend Samuel Gardner)
behind the scenes