It’s customary these days, when reviewing Shaw, to wax enthusiastic about how remarkably prescient the playwright was. Indeed the title character, an unapologetic self-made business woman in the late nineteenth-century who’s made a fortune off of that oldest of professions could have been written by a twentieth-century feminist. And daughter Vivvie’s judgmental rejection of her mother for having exploited the same corrosive capitalism that Vivvie will now herself pursue in order to maintain her privileged social and financial standings (“I like working and getting paid for it,” she says), and that were initially made possible off this tainted money, smacks of an all-too-familiar contemporary hypocrisy. But mere relevance does not always justify a major revival, nor provide it with satisfactory dramatic oomph, especially when a hundred years have transformed Shaw’s “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” from a well-argued moral drama about prostitution into a well-costumed melodrama about priggishness. Perhaps recognizing this, director David Darlow and his fine Remy Bumppo ensemble have instead played up Shaw’s often overlooked and underplayed subplot involving the verboten romance between Vivvie and a young man who is almost certainly her half-brother. This Mrs. Warren—a deliciously detailed performance by Annabel Armour—may be capable of a lot of things, including ferociously fondling her son’s crotch, but she won’t knowingly allow him to sleep with his sister and the look of horror on her face at the possibility of this is as effective as a lot of Shaw’s still dazzling dialogue. It is this emphasis on the still-taboo and very shock-worthy cultural crime of incest that raises the dramatic stakes and jolts this otherwise fine revival with a streak of welcome sexuality. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
Victory Gardens Greenhouse Theatre, 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue, (773)871-3000. Thu-Sat 7:30pm/Sun 2:30pm/Wed 7:30pm. $10-$40. Through Apr 22.