By Reyna Schaechter Everyone makes his or her assumptions before going to see a show. And often, these assumptions are correct. Going into Mrs. Warren’s Profession, my expectation was that I was going to have to sit through a three-hour play revolving around tea and scones. I was wrong. Mostly.
Mrs. Warren’s Profession, by George Bernard Shaw, starts off with an encounter between Vivie Warren and Mr. Praed. Mr. Praed is horrified to discover that Vivie’s prudish tomboy-like disposition is not at all reminiscent of her mother, Mrs. Kitty Warren,’s glamorous charm. Though a bit slow-paced, wordy and sedentary in the beginning, the first interaction firmly establishes Vivie’s character, which would be the basis for all conflict throughout the rest of the show. The show soon picks up pace when the diva-like Mrs. Kitty Warren enters with her “business partner,” Sir George Crofts. An impish Frank Gardner soon comes on with his father, Reverend Samuel Gardner, and teatime commences.
Shaw did a stellar job of writing the play so that not everyone is onstage at the same time, allowing for personal relationships to be made between each character. For example, during the first act, Vivie and Mrs. Warren leave Mr. Praed and Sir George alone in the garden while they go prepare tea. This man-on-man time establishes camaraderie between the two men. During the second act, Vivie announces that there are only four seats for teatime and therefore, two of the six attendees would constantly have to wait in the parlor. At this point, Vivie and Frank’s amorous relation is exposed.
Act Two is also the act in which the scandal of the play is revealed: Mrs. Warren works as a prostitute. The revelation is slightly tedious and verbose, but with Cherry Jones’ phenomenal portrayal of Mrs. Warren as a blasé survivor, it all works. Sally Hawkins, on the other hand, whose performance as Vivie Warren is her Broadway debut, feels slightly amateur for the role. Her voice is wavering throughout all four acts and she repeats the same stereotypical expressions of bewilderment and disgust over and over again. I was right in assuming that there would be tea and scones. My error was that this was only an insignificant detail in the broader scope of things. Mrs. Warren’s Profession shatters all preexisting notions that the Victorian Era was prim-and-proper. More importantly, it explores how a daughter deals with her mother’s seedy entrepreneurship. Though I would hope that none of you readers can identify with Vivie so closely, I’m sure that you all can say that you occasionally disagree with your parents. What I took away from Mrs. Warren’s Profession is that if we come to a point that we are blatantly ashamed of our parents’ actions, it is best not to follow in their footsteps. In these instances, independence must be sought in order for us not to repeat the same mistakes our parents made. TICKETS: $22 general rush American Airlines Theatre, 227 W. 42nd St. www.roundabouttheatre.org/aat/