Director Kathleen O'Neill, founder and director of BOO-Arts, creates a pleasing, almost earthy sense of intimacy in her new production of this classic by placing the audience on two sides of the action. Shaw's dialogue is supremely fluent and expertly whittled, but also somewhat heightened; staging the play so that we're practically embracing the cast pulls a modern American audience into the action and helps make everything seem quite natural. Ms. O'Neill has grasped both the essential characteristics and the depths of Shaw's characters: not only the pivots of the story -- the middle-aged madam of the title and her independent-minded daughter Vivie -- but the four class-conscious men orbiting the women. Caralyn Kozlowski is a wonder as Vivie, completely disappearing into her complex character, biting down on emotions, then opening up just enough for us to read her precisely, controlling herself and controlling the men with the only real power she has: her determination. She makes us laugh even as she faces the serious conundrum of woman's lot. Including intermission, the play runs two and a half hours, but it zips by. It's actually one of Shaw's shorter plays, and as such it's done more often than some; still, this is a fairly unusual opportunity to see a top-notch staging with an excellent cast in an intimate setting.
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