AISLE SAY Philadelphia


by George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Kathryn MacMillan
Lantern Theater Company
St. Stephen’s Theater, 10th & Ludlow Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Box Office: 215-829-0395
Playing now through October 9, 2016

Reviewed by Claudia Perry

Lantern Theater’s season opener is Mrs. Warren’s Profession, George Bernard Shaw’s dramedy which was originally banned by the Lord Chamberlain (Britain's official theatre censor) because of its frank discussion of prostitution. However, it was finally performed on Sunday, January 5, 1902 at London's New Lyric Club (a private establishment) with the distinguished actor-manager Harley Granville-Barker as Frank. The first public performance in London didn’t take place until 1925. A 1905 performance in New York, this time on a public stage, was interrupted by the police, who arrested the cast and crew for violating New York City's version of the Comstock laws. It was later held to not be in violation and since that time has been revived on Broadway, many times, most recently with Cherry Jones in 2010.

Starting out as a prostitute, Mrs. Kitty Warren has worked her way up the capitalistic ladder, ending up as the procuress for several brothels on the continent. With her fortune she has provided her daughter, Vivie, with a first-class education and the means to become an independent young woman. Now returning to reunite with her daughter after Vivie’s graduation from Cambridge, the two women find that they truly live in different worlds.

Director, Kathryn MacMillan has gathered together a fine cast and has kept this play with its deeper themes of social hypocrisy, sexism and class distinction, tripping along at a fine pace. Mr. Shaw, never at a loss for words, has written some lengthy monologues, which in the hands of lesser actors could seem dull. But here is not the case. Every scene seems as fresh as if it were written yesterday. Mary Martello is delightful and in the last act very moving as the slightly frowzy Mrs. Warren. Clair Inie-Richards is a sensitive, yet determined Vivie Warren. David Bardeen is charming as the shy, rather naïve, Mr. Praed. Daniel Fredrick as Frank Gardener, plays the disarming, young cad to the hilt. And if there is a villain in the piece, Andrew Criss brings out the sleaziness in his version of the smug, entitled, Sir George Crofts.

The scenic design by Dirk Durossette is deceptively simple. A series of partitions that first serve as garden trellises are later turned into buffets and bookcases. The costumes by Janus Stefanowicz are colorful and well reflect the period. If you are not acquainted with the works of the great George Bernard Shaw, this would be a great occasion to get to know him. For tickets call 215-829-0395.

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