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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the McCarter Theater, Princeton, N.J.


  Suzanne Bertish,Robin Chadwick,Michael Izquierdo & Madeleine Hutchins/Ph: T.C. Erickson

A respectable revival of George Bernard Shaw's third play, Mrs. Warren's Profession at Princeton's McCarter Theater, maintains its history of a rather blushing past. Published in 1898 and produced on the stage for a single performance four years later, its bleak and witty plot actually glorifies debauchery, and hints at an incestuous affair. Attacked in its day as provocative theater, Shaw with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, introduces his audience to a starchy lady who owns a string of thriving continental brothels from Brussels to Budapest and Paris.

The brittle and blanching comedy was produced in New York in 1905 and promptly declared immoral and shuttered by the police. Prostitution in Victorian-era society may have been popular in pulp magazines as it was on the back streets of London and major European cities, but on the stage the oldest profession was somewhat of a shock.

Unaware of her mother's avocation, Mrs. Warren's much shielded daughter Vivie, is an all fire and brimstone young lady, crisply acted on the Princeton stage by Madeleine Hutchins. It is a sharply defined performance, and offers a firm balance to the performance of Suzanne Bertish who acts the title role with vigorous flourish and a touch of fury. Her performance appears to illustrate that as a drawing room comedy, the play is a tad short of laughs.

Vivie's irresponsible suitor, Frank, who just might turn out to be her half-brother, is played by Michael Izquierdo with cheeky confidence. The bibulous Reverend Gardner, who has a blushing rascally past is played with starchy reserve by Robin Chadwick. Praed, the ambiguous family friend is given a reserved and earnest sheen by Edward Hibbert , the crisply keenly spoken actor who comes direct from featured Broadway runs in Curtains' and The Drowsy Chaperone.

The only mis-fire is the role of Sir George Crofts, Kitty's silent partner and a rather predatory older gent. Rocco Sisto invests the character with head bowed, a leering bushy-eyed glare and a stalking menacing gait that suggests the arrival on the scene of Count Dracula.

McCarter artistic director Emily Mann has staged the play with accent on the deeply personal passions of Shaw's characters, but appears to have missed the brittleness of its wry humorous edge.

The set design by Eugene Lee offers a rather modest little cottage, both inside and out, but the eyes are rewarded by the presence of a vintage locomobile steam motor car. A rattling thunderstorm along the way is quite effective and the period threads as designed by Jennifer von Mayrthauser complement the era.

( Runs through Feb. 15)



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