DUAL CRITICS REVIEW
“Mrs. Warren’s Profession,” a social-issues play by George Bernard Shaw, opened on the Swisher Theatre Stage at Jacksonville University on February 15th, with additional shows scheduled February 22 and 24, at 7:30 PM.
The Irish playwright was a Nobel Prize winner, who wrote more than sixty plays during his lifetime. His best known works include “Man and Superman,” “Saint Joan,” “Major Barbara,” “Caesar and Cleopatra,” and “Pygmalion,” the basis for the ever- popular musical “My Fair Lady.” He died at age ninety-four, while in the process of writing still another play.
“Mrs. Warren’s Profession” was written in 1893, published in 1898, and initially staged in 1902, where it was performed at a private club. Why? The story is that of Vivie, a young woman who learns that her mother paid for her expensive upbringing and schooling through a career as a prostitute. Public performances of the play were banned in Great Britain until 1925, as it was considered immoral and improper for the stage.
As the play opens, Vivie has graduated from Cambridge University and is staying in a cottage in the country town of Haslemere. She is visited by Praed (Carlos Adorno), a friend of her mother, who engages her in conversation about her plans for the future. Her mother, Kitty Warren (Deborah Jordan), arrives shortly afterward, accompanied by Sir George Crofts (Dave Allen Thomas), her business partner.
The remaining characters arrive in short order. The handsome Frank (Angel Gavillan) falls in Love with Vivie. He is the son of local minister Reverend Samuel Gardner (Erik DeCicco, who also directed this play).
Crofts confides in a conversation with Praed that he is interested in marrying Vivie despite the vast difference in their ages, while the rather uncleric Reverend Gardner makes it clear to his son Frank that Vivie is not a suitable candidate for marriage due to her lack of money and social position.
In the second act, we learn more about Kitty’s past and her current conflicted relationship with Vivie, as she explains in an impassioned speech why she found prostitution preferable to employment as a shopgirl or barmaid or waitress – fourteen hours of work at four shillings a week and board. And it’s worked out for her – she and Croft now own a chain of brothels based in major European cities and are quite wealthy, which has allowed her to ensure her daughter will have a comfortable future. The remaining two acts bring twists, turns, and surprises, which we will leave for you to experience when you see the production.
Three cast members are theatre educators and have impressive resumes as actors. Deborah Jordan has been an Associate Professor of Theatre at Jacksonville University for a number of years. She is the author of two plays and has appeared on local stages in “God of Carnage,” “After Ashley,” and “Little Women.”
Erik DeCicco graduated locally from Stanton Prep, received his B.F.A. in Theatre Arts from JU and his Masters from University of Louisville. He has directed shows at JU, local community theatre and FSCJ. Not only an excellent actor but fine singer as well and has performed at The Alhambra Theatre, in the New York Fringe Festival.
Dave Alan Thomas has been teaching drama in the local high schools for the past eighteen years. In addition, he has directed many great shows on local stages, and his appearances in leading roles in area theatres have also been impressive. If you are planning to see this show, you will find extensive resumes on these three theatre icons.
The three Jacksonville University students were remarkable. Vivie was certainly a challenging role for Sarah Stepp, a sophomore, who has appeared in three shows on the JU stage.
Angel Gavillan’s Frank was very convincing and noteworthy, as he is only a freshman at JU. He apparently has spent a lot of time at Swisher Theatre recently, as he was also in the musical “Aida,” currently alternating with “Mrs. Warren.”
In addition to his portrayal of Praed, Carlos Adorno, a second-year Theatre Studies major, has appeared in major roles in “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” as Melvin P. Thorpe and Hot Blades Harry in “Urinetown.”
Brandon Lettow designed the set and was the sound and technical director as well. The settings included a cottage garden, the cottage interior, a rectory garden, and an office interior. All the pieces had to be portable due to the concurrent staging of “Aida”
The costumes by Curtis J. Williams reflected the early 1900’s with suits for the men and lovely dresses for the ladies.
The creative team included Erik DeCicco (Director), Karina Castro (Assistant Director), Ben Wilson (Lighting Design), Joseph Mahoney (Stage Manager), Victoria Gordon (Assistant Stage Manager), Brian Champion (Props Master) and Jon Warren (Shop Foreman).
The production was an interesting evening of theatre, as the audience was transported to England and introduced to George Bernard Shaw’s remarkable ground-breaking play.