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Shaw Festival’s MRS. WARREN’S PROFESSION feels at home in Shea’s 710 Main Theatre

THE BASICS:  MRS. WARREN’S PROFESSION, the drama by Bernard Shaw presented by The Shaw Festival has a short run “on the road,” as it were, through November 13, Thursday at 7:30, Friday at 8, Saturday at 2 & 8, with a final performance Sunday at 2 as part of a five-year partnership with Shea’s to bring one play a year from Niagara on the Lake, ON, Canada to Shea’s 710 Theatre, located at 710 Main Street at the corner of Tupper Street. Run time is slightly under 2-1/2 hours with one intermission (coffee and candy station in lobby, full service bar/lounge off the lobby) (1-800-745-3000). www.sheas.org/710main

THUMBNAIL SKETCH:  With one cast change (the Reverend Samuel Gardner is now played by Jeff Meadows) this is the same superb production that was seen at the Royal George Theatre in Niagara on the Lake this summer – actors, costumes, props, and set. The set must have been slightly modified to fit the 710 stage, but it’s not noticeable how. The production was reviewed this summer by my colleague, Grant Golden, who summarized the plot as follows: “Vivie, an intelligent, pragmatic young woman who has just graduated from Cambridge with honors, returns home.  Here she is given her first real opportunity to get to know her wealthy, mysterious mother.  Imagine her surprise to learn that Kitty Warren has made her way first as a prostitute, and later as the canny manager of a string of European brothels.  As her mother tells of her early travails, Vivie’s heart melts, but there is still another important revelation, one that the new mother/daughter relationship may not be able to survive…

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: All of the actors are first rate, which is one reason people travel to the Festival, with especially toothsome portrayals of two would-be swains by Shaw veterans Thom Marriott as the somewhat louche Sir George Crofts and Wade Bogert-O’Brien as Frank Gardner. Nicole Underhay received a huge ovation for her portrayal of Mrs. Warren, and, when you go, listen for how, in stressful moments, the character slips back to the Cockney accent of her youth. Masterful. And the performances of Gray Powell as Praed, a friend of Mrs. Warren, Jeff Meadows, and Jennifer Dzialoszynski as Vivie Warren, the very opinionated, strong willed, daughter of Mrs. Warren were all Shaw quality, which is to say, first rate.

I was not as bothered as my colleague by the “play within a play” re-working of the original Shaw material, either when I saw it this summer at the Royal George Theatre nor here in Buffalo at Shea’s 710 Main, but I can’t disagree with his points. The conceit by director Eda Holmes is that, since as a matter of history the original play was banned from the theaters for its salacious content and had to be shown at a private men’s club, that’s how it’s presented to us, where all four male actors appear on stage first as club members, and then as the play starts, inhabit their various roles.

And I can understand how my colleague felt that Jennifer Dzialoszynski, whom we both regard as an excellent actor, was (I would say “may have been”) miscast as Vivie Warren.

This is the sort of production for which 710 Main was originally built, so go and enjoy yourself.

In sum, I would highly encourage you to read the original review and to go see this play while it’s in town. Shaw sets are always stunning and not only are the actors full-time professionals, but they’ve had all summer to inhabit their roles and the evening is seamless. This is the sort of production for which 710 Main was originally built, so go and enjoy yourself.

[Note: if you have a moment, walk on to the Main Street median, the “Plaza of the Stars” where you will see a large sign announcing Buffalo’s Theatre District and, when you look down, stars in the cement going back to Katharine Cornell and James Whitmore, Jr. and most recently Javier Bustillos (2015 installation) and this year Mary Kate O’Connell. It’s all part of the “Buffalo Revival”.]

Lead image: Thom Marriott and Jennifer Dzialoszynski reprise their Shaw Festival roles

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(Original review Three Buffalos)

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

If you enjoy public radio and television in Buffalo, you’ve probably heard or seen Peter Hall asking you for money. He’s the co-host of “Theater Talk” with Anthony Chase (Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO, 88.7 FM) and is the afternoon drive host on Classical 94.5 / WNED where he also produces and hosts “Buffalo Philharmonic Live” (Sundays at 5 p.m. repeating Tuesdays at 11 p.m.) broadcasting BPO performances conducted by JoAnn Falletta. Around town he’s the emcee for Buffalo Chamber Music Society concerts, the Falletta competition, and the Camerata di Sant’Antonio concerts. If you see him at a play or musical with a pen in his hand, he’s probably writing a review for buffalorising.com.

In past lives he has been a Director of Membership for Western New York Public Broadcasting (PBS and NPR), a Director of Marketing for Canisius College, and before that was a Director of Marketing for Fisher-Price. He feels fortunate to have worked for some of the most trusted brands in Western New York.

Growing up in the Amherst school system, music, the arts, literature, outdoor activities, and teaching were important in his family. His grandfather, the painter W.J. Schwanekamp, has works on display at the Burchfield-Penney. His father was a high school English teacher and his mother was a public librarian. In high school, in addition to running track and cross country and being in the ski club, Peter played various instruments in the orchestra, had leading roles in the plays, and was an editor of the high school newspaper. Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty years he has taught undergraduate and graduate classes at Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

Depending on the season, on weekends he can be seen riding with the Niagara Frontier Bicycle Club or teaching downhill skiing at Kissing Bridge.

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