Tony Award nominee Dana Ivey is the scandalous Mrs. Warren in the new staging of Bernard Shaw's 100-year-old social drama, which opened to solid reviews Dec. 18, 2005, after previews since Dec. 9 in Manhattan.
The infamous-in-its-day play concerns the revelation that the charming yet businesslike Mrs. Warren runs brothels — a business that has kept her daughter Vivie (played by Laura Odeh) well fed and educated in a time when women lacked social independence. Questions of "honest work," morality and sources of family fortunes percolate in the 1894 play. This production celebrates the 100th anniversary of the American premiere in 1905.
IRT artistic director Charlotte Moore stages the play. Performances were announced to Jan. 29, but business has been good to prompt an extension.
"At the turn of the century, Vivie Warren, a Cambridge educated and well brought-up young woman, learns that her mother, Mrs. Kitty Warren, has risen from abject poverty to enormous wealth through her investments in brothels throughout Europe," according to IRT. "While Miss Warren acknowledges her mothers courage and respects her overcoming her past, she fails to agree with her mother's continuing in her line of work." Written in 1894, the play was refused production until January 1902 at London's New Lyric Club. The play's American debut was in 1905 in New Haven but was closed and banned after only one performance. It subsequently transferred to Broadway's Garrick Theatre where it opened on Oct. 30, 1905 to a sold-out audience, but was soon closed there; the cast was cited for "disorderly conduct."
Shaw wrote, "[The play] was written to draw attention to the truth that prostitution is caused, not by female depravity and male licentiousness, but simply by underpaying, undervaluing and overworking women so shamefully that the poorest of them are forced to resort to prostitution... No normal woman would be a professional prostitute if she could better herself by being respectable, nor marry for money if she could afford to marry for love."
Shaw won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1925.
The cast is led by Dana Ivey who recently received a Tony Award nomination for The Rivals. Her Broadway credits include Shaw's Heartbreak House (Tony nomination), Last Night of Ballyhoo (Drama Desk Award and Tony nomination), Sunday in the Park With George (Tony nomination) and more. She was the first Miss Daisy in Driving Miss Daisy Off-Broadway.
The cast also includes Laura Odeh as the daughter Vivie, David Staller as Mr. Praed, Sam Tsoutsouvas as Sir George Crofts, Kevin Collins as Frank Gardner, and Kenneth Garner as Rev. Samuel Gardner.
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was born in Dublin.
The Irish Repertory Theatre performs at its home at 132 W. 22nd Street.
Performances of Mrs. Warren's Profession are Wednesday-Saturday at 8 PM. Matinees are Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 3 PM.
For information, call The Irish Repertory Theatre box office at (212) 727-2737. For more information visit www.irishrep.org.