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Mrs. Warren's Profession

a Classic Collection
by George Bernard Shaw

COMPANY : Alliance Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Woodruff Art Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 1789

SHOWING : September 27, 2006 - October 22, 2006



George Bernard Shaw's Classic depiction of Hypocrisy and Morality follows and Independent Woman's discovery of the "Profession" that launched her mother's fortune.

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Shavian Ambivalencies
by Dedalus
Monday, October 30, 2006
It’s over two weeks since I’ve seen “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” at the Alliance, and I have to confess that I still haven’t come up with anything to write about it. In the spirit of “just getting on with my life” (as well as a few plays backed up in memory that I DO want to write about), here are a few disparate observations about this just-closed run.

(1) Shaw is (and has always been) a playwright of exquisite language, pointed satire, and leisurely pace. Usually, the length is not an issue – the words and ideas come so fast and deep that it seems like time well-spent (“Heartbreak House” notwithstanding). This production of MWP was edited down and paced quickly, yet its satire seemed strained, its language seemed commonplace, and its ideas seemed over-obvious.

(2) My wife and I saw leading actress Patricia Hodges in Alan Ayckbourne’s “Communicating Doors” eight years ago off-Broadway, and fell in love with that play based mostly on her performance. Here, however, her energy seemed lacking (at least in the performance I saw) and her central monologue just before intermission was half-mumbled, obscuring Shaw’s language as well as his arguments. She more than made up for it in the final confrontation scene, though. Since exquisitely felt endings can make me overlook missteps along the way, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to my middle-aged bad ears.

(3) The final moment of the play was wonderfully dramatic (projected bars and Slamming Metal Door sound effect). So wonderful, in fact, that I came up with the same idea to end CSN’s production of “House of Blue Leaves” back in August. Since I doubt if the Alliance production team came up to Marietta, I’ll just claim dramatic synchronicity and feel a bit of pride that my ideas are echoed by the seasoned professionals here. Or, maybe this ending was scripted – I haven’t read MWP in many years, so I claim ignorance on that point.

(4) That being said, what exactly is the point of that moment here? If it’s to imply that the character of Vivie is choosing a life of self-imposed shackles and wage slavery because she refuses to profit from her Mother’s “Profession,” doesn’t that really contradict what went before, and contradict the generic Shavian aversion to Upper Class hypocrisy? In “Don Juan in Hell,” he makes the strong point that, although Hell was made for the wicked who enjoy themselves there, Don Juan still chooses the “boring shackles” of heaven rather than spend eternity side by side with the witless fools who choose Hell. Vivie’s choice is much the same – though she chooses a life of drudgery and monotony, I always believed the point of the play is that that was preferable to profiting from the “riches” acquired by her mother off the backs of destitute women. Although the ending was a dramatically effective moment, I’m not sure Shaw would have approved.

(5) The last confrontation scene between Mrs. Warren and Vivie was the emotional highlight of the production, as it should have been. The tension in the scene was well earned by the honest interactions between the characters beforehand, and the choices made by both was consistent with how they had been developed to this point. Ms. Hodges and the wonderful Annie Meisels (Vivie) hit every note right in this scene, and it was an effective payoff to all the foundation work they had done up to that point.

(6) As usual, Shaw’s secondary characters were delightfully unpredictable and always surprising. Even the “villains” showed occasional sparks of integrity (in their own terms) and tended to baffle initial expectations.

When all is said and done, I respected this production more than I “enjoyed” it. I think the arguments of Shaw’s thesis were muddled by some of the staging, but the characters were clear and recognizable. I wish some of the dialog had been clearer, and I wish the ending effect would have been more appropriate. But, being a Shaw fan, I am happy to see him live and in production, rather than embalmed in a classroom setting.

-- Brad Rudy (


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