Review: 'The Oldest Profession' at Connecticut Cabaret Theatre

Nancy Sasso Janis

  • Connecticut Critic
  • Connecticut Critics Circle

"We're too broke to get out of New York and we don't have enough money to live here." 

Berlin, CT - ‘The Oldest Profession’ is a play written by Paula Vogel. Kris McMurray, the Artistic Director/Owner of Connecticut Cabaret Theatre, had wanted to bring the piece to his stage for a few years and finally did so during the Berlin theatre’s 19th season. He assembled a cast of five talented actresses of a certain age and served as both producer and director. During his always cheeky curtain speech, Mr. McMurray encouraged the packed audience to keep a dirty mind.

The play is set in New York City’s Upper West Side just before the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Six scenes presented with an intermission weave the story of five aging practitioners of the oldest profession that are faced with a diminishing clientele and increased competition for their niche market, not to mention aching joints. With much compassion and humor, the five struggle mightily to find new tricks as they fight to stay in the Life. The show contains a small amount of off-color humor.

The ladies of the night met one another at a bordello in New Orleans before coming the New York; keeping this in mind will help make sense of the action. Mae is the madam, a self-made woman who looks after her aging stable. Ursula is the determined one who believes in rules and does not suffer fools. Lillian who has aged gracefully, is sure of herself and has great style. Edna is next in line after Mae and is a good-time girl who is brassy and adventurous. Vera, the youngest of the group, is loyal and sensitive, loves food and has a strong work ethic. 

Jennifer Burns plays Mae the madam and makes her strong and caring. Karen Gagliardi makes Ursula stern without going over the top and retains her New Orleans accent.  Nancy Ferene is the lovely Lillian and Barbara Horan is the brassy Edna. Bonnie Sprague takes on the role of the lovable Vera.

The five actresses worked hard to bring out the humor in their characters in the first act, and they did equally as well when the second act crossed over to a slightly somber tone. The audience obviously enjoyed watching the enduring friendship of these ladies of the night. 

The simple set included two ornate park benches and a skyline backdrop that was nicely lit by James Moran. The play is set in summer in NYC, but the ladies must wear coats and jackets to conceal their one costume change. That change is significant and the dresses were flattering to all five. Luxurious white feather boas completed the look. Wigs and hair had some hits and misses. 

The Oldest Profession runs every Friday and Saturday at 8:00pm from October 7th through November 5th, 2016.  Doors open at 7:15pm. Reservations are recommended. The Connecticut Cabaret Theatre is located at 31 Webster Square Road, just off Route 9 (exit 22: Mill Street) and the Berlin Turnpike. The theatre’s motto is “BRING YOUR OWN”. Presented cabaret-style, patrons are welcome to bring whatever they like to eat or drink with them. 

Pictured: Jennifer Burns, Nancy Ferene, Karen Gagliardi, Barbara Horan, Bonnie Sprague  Photo Credit: Connecticut Cabaret Theatre