The profession of the title is that of "madam." Reaching to get out of the hardscrabble circumstances that crushed many Victorian women, Kitty Warren would rise to run a chain of brothels. Her smart, well-dressed, well-fed, college-educated daughter, Vivie (played by Broadway newcomer Sally Hawkins), has been kept separate from and ignorant of her mother's world. Until now.
Authorities in the early life of the play (in London and New York City) sought to have the work snuffed out.
In 1902, in his "Author's Apology" about the play, Shaw wrote, "Mrs. Warren's Profession has been performed at last, after a delay of only eight years; and I have once more shared with Ibsen the triumphant amusement of startling all but the strongest-headed of the London theatre critics clean out of the practice of their profession.
"…Play Mrs. Warren's Profession to an audience of clerical members of the Christian Social Union and of women well experienced in Rescue, Temperance, and Girls' Club work, and no moral panic will arise; every man and woman present will know that as long as poverty makes virtue hideous and the spare pocket-money of rich bachelordom makes vice dazzling, their daily hand-to-hand fight against prostitution with prayer and persuasion, shelters and scanty alms, will be a losing one." Jones and Golden Globe winner Hawkins ("Happy-Go-Lucky") are joined by Adam Driver (Little Doc at the Rattlestick) as Frank Gardner, Mark Harelik (The Light in the Piazza, creator of The Immigrant) as Sir George Crofts, Edward Hibbert (Curtains, The Drowsy Chaperone) as Praed and Michael Siberry (A Man for All Seasons, The Merchant of Venice) as Rev. Samuel Gardner. The limited engagement is currently scheduled to run through Nov. 21.
Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession, according to the Roundabout, "tells the story of Kitty Warren (Jones), a mother who makes a terrible sacrifice for her daughter Vivie's (Hawkins) independence. The clash of these two strong-willed but culturally constrained women is the spark that ignites the ironic wit of one of Shaw's greatest plays."
Mrs. Warren's Profession premiered on Broadway in 1905 at the Garrick Theatre and subsequently was revived on Broadway in 1907, 1918, 1922 and 1976.
Performances will play Tuesday-Saturday at 8 PM with matinees on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 PM.
For tickets and information, visit www.roundabouttheatre.org, or call (212) 719-1300, or visit the American Airlines Box Office (227 West 42nd Street).