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Mrs. Warren's Profession

Banned and reviled, George Bernard Shaw’s 1893 satire about a modern Victorian girl, Vivie (Joanna Strapp), who discovers that her estranged mother, Kitty (Gillian Doyle), is a wealthy whore, was so controversial that Shaw prefaced it with a 10,000 word “apology” in which he excoriated his critics as hypocritical sops. Mathematician Vivie is aghast that her youthful independence, her college degree and preference for cigars over romance were funded by mom’s round heels. What’s bold then and now goes beyond Kitty’s convincing defense of her profession (she’s a businesswoman, not a victim) and the intimations of incest when Vivie realizes her suitor’s father (Barry Saltzman), now a clergyman, was one of her mother’s clients. The immorality at stake isn’t carnal but capitalistic: Vivie concludes that brothel-working is fine but brothel-owning is vile. That Shaw’s scorching four-act play, by proxy, attacks everything from the glass ceiling to Nike shoes means its relevance has only increased in over a century. Something’s slightly off in director August Viverito’s pacing as jokes that deserve guffaws score only wry smirks. In a strong ensemble, Doyle is outstanding as an alpha female coquette overloaded with pride, vulnerability and jewels; and as Vivie’s two would-be husbands, Jeremy Lelliott, in a callously foppish take, and Skip Pipo, with his crass, tycoonish portrayal, are hilarious while they underscore Shaw’s insinuation that Jane Austen’s well-married girls are the true prostitutes.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: July 18. Continues through Aug. 24, 2008

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