04/01/2013 08:56 am ET

Antaeus Company's 'Mrs. Warren’s Profession' Carefully Avoids Stereotypes

George Bernard Shaw's once-scandalous 1893 drama "Mrs. Warren's Profession" can be a tough nut to crack, but thanks to the steadfast guidance of director Robin Larsen and a stellar double-cast ensemble of some of the Antaeus Company's most resolute members, the balance between the crafty old master's droll humor and jabs at the mores of his time survives remarkably intact. Productions of Shaw are often hampered by exaggeratedly posh accents and cartoonlike depictions of the stiff-backed demeanor embraced by denizens of Victorian England, but Larsen carefully avoids stereotypes.

Despite Antaeus' practice of what it calls "partner casting," it's not hard to understand why the title role is performed in both companies by one of Los Angeles' best. A great deal of the production's success is inspired by Anne Gee Byrd, who as Kitty Warren sets the standard for the others to fall in step behind her. Entering well into the action during the first scene, Byrd adopts a surprisingly conversational tone to depict a grandly nonconformist reprobate of a woman. As she begins to speak, everyone suddenly takes his or her own volume down to accommodate, as though Byrd is conducting an orchestra suddenly snapped together by her leadership. If at first it feels odd that her accent slides from Received Pronunciation to cockney, it soon becomes apparent that it's not a slip but an inspired character choice.