Mrs. Weinberg’s Profession is a poignant play exploring choices and decisions that women must make in life. Based on Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession, this version has been updated by about a decade, and has many Jewish references just splattered about. Shaw’s major points, epiphanies, and arguments remain in a watered-down form that lacks his sharpness and wit.
The plot follows Mrs. Weinberg (Debra Zane) and her relationship with her daughter, Deborah (Colleen DiVincentis). Mrs. Weinberg has sacrificed everything for Deborah. Her profession is that she runs a whorehouse. Deborah does not find out this fact until the end of Act One, and it is not until Act Two that she finds out her mother is still working.
Deborah also has two suitors -- the elder, rich George Kaufmann (Gregg David Shore) and the young, juvenile Harold Greenbaum (Corey Cicci). Harold’s father is a Rabbi (Barry Pomerantz) with a past. In fact, it turns out that Harold and Deborah might be half-siblings. Between this shocking discovery, and dealing with where all of her money and support has come from throughout the years, Deborah is very angry and confused.
The basic structure with five scenes and emotional epiphanies, which are adapted from Shaw’s original piece, worked well. However, the dialog felt dry, mundane, and stale at times. Additionally, there was a distinct lack of humor and charm. Act One dragged quite a bit, but Act Two exploded passionately at times.
Erin Smiley directed the show well. The pacing, energy, and staging worked solidly even if the script was dull at times. The cast tried to make the show exciting and succeeded in some moments. Zane was quite affecting as Mrs. Weinberg; however, her inconsistent accent was very distracting.
Nicky Freed’s set was unnecessarily elaborate and complex -- the scene changes took almost five minutes each, adding almost 20 minutes to a play that was already too long.
Overall, thus, Mrs. Weinberg’s Profession works best when it is following its source material. While there is something to be said for modernizing a show, sometimes it is best to just leave it alone.
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Copyright 2005 Seth Bisen-Hersh