Mrs. Warren’s Profession

“Rich men without conviction are more dangerous in modern society than poor women without chastity,” wrote George Bernard Shaw in the revised preface to this 1898 play, a bitter indictment of materialism and conventional morality, both of which he viewed as inherently hypocritical. Though tame by today’s standards, the play was shunned by priggish Victorian audiences–and no wonder. The character Shaw renders most sympathetically is Mrs. Kitty Warren, proprietor of a successful chain of European brothels. And in typical perverse fashion, Shaw ultimately exposes all the play’s supposed paragons of virtue as laughable, self-righteous fools. Stuck squarely in the middle of this swelling tempest is Mrs. Warren’s impressionable daughter, Vivie, poised to unlock the mystery of her highly guarded upbringing. Shaw Chicago’s latest staged reading, directed by Robert Scogin, emphasizes the playwright’s gift for pointed dialogue and clever wordsmithery. Standouts among the exceptional cast include Karen Raymore as Vivie, the sole champion of free will and reason, and Tony Dobrowolski as Sir George Crofts, a pretentious windbag whose lines are limited to witless aphorisms. Chicago Cultural Center, studio theater, 78 E. Washington (enter at 77 E. Randolph), 312-742-1079. Through February 23: Saturdays-Sundays, 2 PM; Mondays, 7 PM. Free, but reservations are required.

–Nick Green

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Taylor Boyle.