Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mrs. Warren’s Profession (Roundabout Theatre Company)

By Harry Forbes

As Mrs. Kitty Warren, Cherry Jones cuts a fine figure of a Victorian madam – even if her Cockney accent is a little dodgy – in Doug Hughes’ generally fine production of George Bernard Shaw’s once scandalous – and still provocative – play about the repression of women in Victorian society, and the sociological and financial circumstances that might push a decent woman into prostitution.

Sally Hawkins – best known here for her intentionally grating heroine in Mike Leigh’s film “Happy-Go-Lucky” – is her Cambridge-educated daughter Vivie. She talks so fast, though, that her lines are sometimes difficult to hear.

But she grows in strength (and verbal clarity) as her strong-willed character, learning the truth about Kitty's brothels, determines to break free of her mother and the men pursuing her.

Mark Harelik is particularly on the mark as one of the latter, Sir George Crofts, Mrs. Warren’s smarmy business partner who confidently tries to woo Vivie away from Frank (Adam Driver), son of the local rector (a solid Michael Siberry) who has some secrets of his own. Reliable Edward Hibbert makes a fine Mr. Praed.

Hughes’ staging is commendably ungimmicky, and he keeps the play – like much of Shaw, on the talky side – moving at a decent clip, even if he pitches the play’s confrontation scenes sometimes too high. The mother-daughter shouting match at the end is the most egregious example of that.

Catherine Zuber’s lovely costumes, including the sumptuously red number Jones wears upon her entrance, and Scott Pask’s multiple realistic sets, continually please the eye.

(American Airlines Theatre, 227 W. 42nd St., 212-719-1300 or Print this post


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