Play Fails to Procure Interest, but Cherry Jones on Stage Always is a Treat
By Lauren Yarger
George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession was a shocker at the turn of the century when it prompted protests and threats of arrest because the aforementioned “profession” is that of a brothel madam. In 2010, however, the Broadway production is a yawner, despite a welcome return to the New York stage by Tony Award winner Cherry Jones in the title role.
It’s a shame Roundabout Theatre Company couldn’t have selected a better script, not only for Jones, but for director Doug Hughes, who helmed Jones’ award-winning performance in Doubt. Besides a few scenes where Mrs. Warren gets to show some emotion, there is little here to make use of the actress’s abundant depth of talent. Disappointing, too, is the casting of a weak Sally Hawkins making her Broadway review as Mrs. Warren’s daughter, Vivie, who is shocked to discover how her estranged mother has provided for her needs all these years. The actress expresses all of her emotions in a monotone shout.
Fueling various subplots are a variety of male characters who all factor into Mrs. Warren's past and profession: Mr. Praed (Edward Hibbert), Sir George Crofts (Mark Harelik), Frank Gardner (Adam Driver) and his father, the Rev. Samuel Gardner (Michael Siberry).
When the most interesting things about a play are its sets and costumes, it’s obvious that whatever else is happening isn’t holding interest. Lovely interiors and exteriors of an English country estate and an office are nicely executed by always excellent designer Scott Pask (nicely lighted by Kenneth Posner) and costumes are the work of the talented Catherine Zuber.
Questions like “Who will be upset by what Mrs. Warren does for a living?,” “Will Vivie and her mother find a way to reconcile their relationship?" and “Who is Vivie’s father?” aren’t as thought provoking as others to which the mind wanders like, “How did Cherry Jones’ agent ever let her do this show?,” “Why do they keep moving all of the chairs around?,” and “What in the world is that strange modern art on the curtain supposed to be any way?” The latter was the main topic of conversation among audience members near me at intermission and to my knowledge, no one had an answer.
The production also has the feel of a rehearsal, rather than a finished product. Here's hoping Jones will return after this run in another show that makes more use of her talent.
Mrs. Warren’s Profession runs through Nov. 28 at the American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd St., NYC. For tickets, call 212-719-1300.
Christians might also like to know:
Well, obviously, Mrs. Warren deals in prostitution.