To get an idea of just how convoluted the legal and moral attitudes toward sex work are in the United States—the self-professed global leader of civil liberties—consider the 2017 trial of Jeffrey Hurant. Under arrest for his role as CEO of RentBoy.com, Hurant stood before a judge in federal district court, who praised his contributions to the queer community, namely, providing a safer avenue for escorts to manage their own business. Then, the judge sentenced him to six months in prison.
Having premiered in London at the turn of the 20th century, George Bernard Shaw’s two-act family dramedy about a daughter coming to terms with the source of her family’s wealth is a prescient and holistic exploration of capitalism, exploitation, self-empowerment, gender dynamics, and the hypocrisy of “polite” society. Ironically, the fact Mrs. Warren’s Profession is so layered and thoughtfully written is likely what led to its initial ban and its subsequently halted performances by censors—there’s something to provoke and challenge audiences from every viewpoint.
Michael D. Graham’s production of Melanie Spewock’s adaptation includes plenty of the costumey, English Department-style foppishness often featured by Promethean Theatre, but at its core is a biting, whirlwind performance by Elaine Carlson in the title role. Carlson’s read on Mrs. Warren’s larger-than-life personality, humor, righteousness, and ultimate disillusionment exemplifies the proscenium-sized grandiosity of Shaw’s best characters—even in cozy blackbox. v