Parents that’ll do anything to better the lives of their children… and children who won’t appreciate it. Women who will do what works best for them, even if it’s not what society approves. Capitalism that keeps finding excuses for the plight of the poor. All of the above are discussed in A Noise Within (ANW)’s third production of this season: MRS. WARREN’S PROFESSION, directed by Michael Michetti.
In MRS. WARREN’S PROFESSION, George Bernard Shaw considers the “New Woman” that developed towards the end of the Victorian era – one who no longer conformed to the Victorian ideals set for her. Vivie Warren (played by Erika Soto) is a young woman whose handshake is stronger than her male acquaintances’, and who’ll enjoy whiskey and cigars as much as any of them. She is highly educated and cares about self financing her future rather than about finding a husband. Her education, however, was supported by her mother, Mrs. Kitty Warren (played by Judith Scott), with the money that, unbeknownst to Vivie, was gained through a shady profession that, although never mentioned specifically, one gathers has to do with prostitution.
In her profession Mrs. Warren proves herself also a feminist. “Why shouldn’t I have done it?” she asks, to work at a house in Brussels that “was real high class,” rather than killing herself at a factory where she would have “become a worn-out old drudge before [she] was forty?” With her profession, although scandalous to Victorian society, she provided for her daughter so that the latter could be a respectable member of society. Trouble is, her daughter’s New Woman-ness and the rigidness she developed in order to fight her own battles with society made it impossible for her to approve of her mother’s occupation. Her strong desire for autonomy alienated her from everyone, even from her mother.
In this play Shaw expresses admiration for the attitude of the New Woman, although he somewhat also presents it as a reason for her troubles. It is brilliantly played at A Noise Within, with the cast that also includes Peter James Smith, Jeremy Rabb, Adam Faison, and Martin Kildare. The story draws you in, making you consider issues of gender, inequality, and the complicated relationship between parents and children. Things have changed for women in the last 124 years since Shaw wrote this play, but there’s lots of work ahead for us. At least now we get to write our own stories!
MRS. WARREN’S PROFESSION plays in repertory through Nov. 18, 2017. Student rush with ID tickets are available one hour before performance at $20. Check ANoiseWithin.org or call (626) 356-3100 for general admission. Sunday matinee tickets are always $25. A Noise Within is located at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd, in Pasadena 91107.
Photo: ANW Resident Artist Erika Soto as Vivie Warren, Adam Faison as Frank Gardner. Photo by Craig Schwartz.
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