MRS. WARREN'S PROFESSION by George Bernard Shaw, directed by Laurel Smith. Presented by Burning Passions at the Hart House Music Room (7 Hart House Circle). July 9-14 at 8 pm. Rating: NNNNN
The plays of George Bernard Shaw have life beyond Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Just look at Burning Passions Theatre , which finds in Shaw's early play Mrs. Warren's Profession a reflection of its political, female-centred mandate.
The piece focuses on the title character, Kitty, a wealthy woman, and her well-educated daughter Vivie, whose life changes when she discovers that her mother's money comes from her work as a brothel-keeper.
"Kitty Warren is a woman full of contradictions," offers Catherine McNally , who portrays her. "I see her as a figure with lots of hidden, surprising angles. She lives in the moment and enjoys life. And while she's completely honest about who she is, it's her choice whether and when to impart that information to people.
"She is intelligent, charming and street-smart," says McNally, "and was forced by circumstances to make decisions early in life, rejecting work as a barmaid, shopgirl or factory hand who put money in men's pockets. Because she took her destiny into her own control, she can give Vivie the well-bred life Kitty wants her to have."
Now the mother, who's spent most of her time physically and emotionally removed from the daughter, wants to reconnect, in part because Vivie is of marriageable age.
"Kitty is independent but desperately wants her daughter's love and fears she might be abandoned, as she was early in her own life. Kitty wants to be appreciated for who she is, making no apologies for the course she's taken."
And what about the men in the play, several of whom see themselves as eligible suitors for Vivie?
"They often seem to be in a quandary," laughs McNally, a director as well as an actor, "losing control of the situation they're in while the women remain firmly in power at the centre."
The performer sees parallels between the late-19th century society Mrs. Warren's Profession wasn't performed publicly in London until nearly a decade after it was first written and today's world.
"Our government may say women are equal, but in fact Canada has the world's 38th-largest wage gap between men and women. Lots of women in their 20s and 30s say we've reached equal status, but in many areas that's just not true.
"We hope the play's witty ideas invite the audience to continue the debate we start onstage after they've left the theatre."