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'MRS. Warren's Profession" may have been written more than 100 years ago, but it still has the power to shock.

Depicting the clash between a brothel-owning businesswoman and her strong-willed, socially minded young daughter, the play, like most of George Bernard Shaw's works, transcends the specifics of its situation with its acute characterizations and philosophies that remain relevant.

Under the assured direction of Charlotte Moore, "Mrs. Warren's Profession" is receiving a beautifully acted production at the Irish Repertory Theatre.

The wonderful Dana Ivey stars as the title character, who's built a mini-empire of successful houses of prostitution throughout Europe. This has left little time for personal involvement with her Cambridge-educated daughter Vivie (Laura Odeh), who's about to enter society.

When the self-righteous young woman learns the true nature of her mother's business, it sets off an emotional collision that gives Shaw ample opportunity to explore issues relating to morality, hypocrisy and the role of women in society.

In the hands of lesser performers, the play can prove less than involving. But the veteran Ivey and the young Odeh flesh out their characters beautifully, with the former conveying an aching vulnerability as well as steeliness and the latter suggesting a moral authority beyond her years.

They're well matched by Sam Tsoutsouvas, the perfect mixture of charm and sleaze as Mrs. Warren's business partner, who has an eye for her daughter; Kenneth Garner, amusing as a flustered clergyman; and David Staller, poignant as an artistically minded family friend.

MRS. WARREN'S PROFESSIONIrish Repertory Theatre, 132 W. 22nd St. (212) 727-2737. Through Jan. 29.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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