Irish dramatist George Bernard Shaw’s 1898 play, “Mrs. Warren’s Profession,” is notorious for its depiction of prostitution as being just like any other occupation.
Though her manners are a bit crude, the title character is well respected among her friends, and rich enough to provide her daughter Vivie with the finest education.
But Mrs. Warren is also what many would dismiss as a “common whore.”
This controversial scenario kept the play off stages on both sides of the Atlantic until 1902.
When it finally debuted in America, the cast was arrested for “disorderly conduct.”
In hindsight, however, it’s easy to see that the ideas presented by Shaw are just as relevant to our time period as they were to his.
This is precisely the reason why this play (and many others by Shaw) continues to enjoy universal popularity.
Kendall Hall’s Don Evans Black Box Theater was home to seven performances of “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” from Feb. 16 to Feb. 26.
The shows were produced by Shakespeare ’70, a Mercer County-based classical theater company, and directed by John F. Erath, professor emeritus of English.
The cast included both veteran stage actors and up-and-coming talents from the area.
The character of Mrs. Warren is a proud, socially-knowledgeable woman who shows no remorse for choosing an unorthodox path to financial success.
Why should she remain a barmaid when she could make a higher profit with her good looks?
Janet Quartarone captured all these qualities to a T with her remarkable performance.
Mrs. Warren’s foil is her daughter Vivie (Leslie Dovale), who would rather slave for a measly wage in an acceptable job then condone the immorality of prostitution.
During the final scene of the play, in which mother and daughter part ways forever, Quartarone delivered her lines with devastating emotion, while Dovale’s cold, no-nonsense Vivie was dead-on.
Despite its bleak finale, the play is very comical. This mostly arises from the four male characters: the sleazy yet charming businessman Sir George Crofts (George Hartpence); the kindly yet cowardly Mr. Praed (Tom Curbishley); the witty young chap Frank Gardner (Patrick Albanesius) and his bumbling father the Rev. Samuel Gardner (Rupert Hinton).
Albanesius is a 2003 graduate of the College and a veteran of All College Theatre.
Bernard Bearer, assistant professor of English, teaches a course that focuses solely on the works of Shaw, his favorite playwright.
Bearer was glad to have seen “a good, classic play beautifully staged.”
“The performances were terrific,” Bearer said, “it is too bad that we do not have more of such productions on this campus.”