George Bernard Shaw’s “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” produced by Seattle Shakespeare

What’s Evie, a brilliant female Cambridge graduate in the late 1800s, to do when she finds out that her mother, Mrs. Warren, financed Evie’s upbringing as well as her education through the profits from the brothels Mama owned all over Europe? The revelation does nothing to improve the poor relationship Evie has with her mother, but it makes for a marvelous play.

It’s hard to believe that it was written more than a century ago, but not hard to believe that it was banned in London and shut down on opening night in New York. What Shaw was really offering in this clever work that’s both funny and instructive was an explanation, within what might be called a feminist perspective, of why prostitution exists.

Richard Ziman and Emily Chisholm in Mrs. Warren’s Profession. Photo by John Ulman

His play documents the plight of women. Those who had to work were generally under employed, underpaid, and under valued. For some, the only way to survive or feed their children was to sell their bodies.

This production, directed by Victor Pappas, is a winner on all fronts—an excellent production of a great play performed by a terrific cast. Especially noteworthy among the cast members is Emilie Chisholm. As Evie she brings a confidence combined with charm to the role. Among the other standouts is Todd Jefferson Moore as the unctuous Reverend Samuel Gardner. You just know that he isn’t as virtuous as he pretends to be. And Shaw would be delighted at the manner in which Richard Ziman plays Sir George Crofts, Mrs. Warren’s business partner, the smarmy, self-satisfied member of the aristocracy.

My, oh my, what meaty ideas are here for us to think about long after the laughs are gone! Aren’t we lucky to have the talent in Seattle to mount this play so successfully? It won’t be closed down by the moral police here, instead it should be sold out for its entire run.

Through April 10 at Center Theatre in the Armory, Seattle Center, Seattle, (206 773-8222 or www.seattleshakespeare.com).

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