Thursday, October 21, 2021

Mrs. Warren's Profession

Last night, I saw Gingold Theatrical Group’s wonderful production of Mrs. Warren’s Profession, now playing on Theatre Row.
As a production note points out, when Bernard Shaw first wrote the play in 1893, prostitution was already a crowd-pleasing plot point in numerous plays, including The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas, fils. The fact that Mrs. Warren’s profession turned out to involve the sex trade was hardly controversial. What was controversial was to see a woman defend so vigorously her right to engage in that profession.
As the titular character Kitty Warren, Karen Ziemba does an excellent job portraying an unapologetic, ambitious, and fleshly woman who takes enjoyment in life no matter what others might think of her. Ziemba, who was delightfully airy as Hesione Hushabye in GTG’s production of Heartbreak House, could not be more different as Kitty Warren, who is grounded in an earthy worldliness throughout the play. The audience thoroughly enjoys every moment she is on the stage.
In many ways the more difficult role in the play is Kitty’s daughter Vivie, who is portrayed in this production by Nicole King, making her Off-Broadway debut. Raised in material comfort while ignorant of her mother’s profession, Vivie excels at mathematics at Cambridge and longs to get a job working in her own chambers in London. When she discovers the business her mother has fallen into, she reacts with understanding, but when she realizes her mother has never left that business, and participates in the exploitation of other women, she closes herself off from those around her, plunging into her own profession as diligently and enthusiastically as her mother had engaged in hers.
Director David Staller helps to fill out Vivie’s inner life in a theatrical moment when the other cast members speak in turns a line she has in the play. In this way, we see how the young woman’s world view has been shaped by all those around her, emphasizing over and over the notions that she internalizes, for better or for worse. “I don’t believe in circumstances,” she says, “The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” The fact that we hear these lines not just in Vivie’s voice, but in the voices of the rest of the cast, demonstrates that no matter what she may claim, Vivie is a product of her own circumstances, like it or not.
In addition to the two leading women, the supporting cast is excellent as well. Raphael Nash Thompson, the brilliant Captain Shotover in GTG’s Heartbreak House, plays the Rev. Samuel Gardner, and the relative newcomer David Lee Huynh is a delight as Gardner’s son (and Vivie’s love interest) Frank. Robert Cuccioli, who played Julius Caesar in GTG’s Caesar and Cleopatra, brings depth to the villainous baronet Sir George Crofts, and Alvin Keith is a breath of fresh spring air as the romantic and artistic architect Mr. Praed.
Mrs. Warren’s Profession is playing until November 20th, so get your tickets now! You won’t want to miss it.