George Bernard Shaw had all the defects of all his virtues. He offered Edwardian theatergoers a heady brew of progressive ideas–but the left-wing notions that propelled his once-controversial plays long ago lost their power to shock. His characters were forever tossing off speeches that crackled and fizzed with wit–but they never knew when to shut up. Even the best of his plays can be unutterably tedious in anything short of a near-perfect performance. Am I surprised, then, that the Irish Repertory Theatre’s revival of “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” is so exciting? Not even slightly. When it comes to my favorite Off Broadway company, I take such marvels for granted….
I wasn’t around for the 1975 New York Shakespeare Festival revival of “Mrs. Warren’s Profession,” which starred Lynn Redgrave and Ruth Gordon, but I can’t imagine it having been superior to this production, which ranks with “The Trip to Bountiful” and “Sweeney Todd” at the top of my list of new shows worth seeing….
It’s not ungentlemanly to say that Chita Rivera is 72, since she makes no secret of it. Nor has she sought to conceal the fact that her “autobiographical” show, “Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life,” was written by playwright Terrence McNally. For that matter, “The Dancer’s Life” isn’t even a one-woman show: Ms. Rivera does nearly all the talking, but she’s backed by an ensemble of ten dancers and an on-stage orchestra. So if you were expecting something similar to “At Liberty,” Elaine Stritch’s brassily candid solo show about life upon the wicked stage, you’re going to be surprised by “The Dancer’s Life,” which feels more like an as-told-to musical than a hot-dish gossipfest. It’s brisk, slick, just a little bit impersonal–and boundlessly entertaining….
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