Christopher Fry’s delightful 1948 comedy The Lady’s Not For Burning is rarely staged. It’s surprising that neither of LA’s classical theatre groups—Pasadena’s A Noise Within and Glendale’s Antaeus Theatre Company—have ever produced the play. They certainly have the talents in their acting companies to put on a class act. I was lucky enough to see a perfectly cast production of the play at The Colony in 1980. Fry’s play, set around 1400, deals with Thomas Mendip, a former soldier who wants to be hanged because he is bored by life and Jennet Jourdemayne, a young woman of property, condemned to be burned as a witch, who desperately wants to live. The action takes place in the home of the town’s Mayor, which also serves as a jail. His sister and her two competitive and rambunctious sons provide the bulk of the comedy. There is also a young convent girl affianced to one of the brothers who instead falls in love with the Mayor’s clerk.
WorldStage Theatre & Co. is presenting a CliffsNotes version of the play at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. The nearly 90-minute version of the three-act verse play is said to be “reimagined for a post-Covid world” but that reimagining was not much on display. Jenny Leonhardt directed a very uneven group of actors. Some were more comfortable with the dialogue than others, but most seemed to concentrate on saying the words and not creating characters. Justin Powell as the bored soldier came off best although he tended to shout most of his dialogue. Juliet Tondowski was a bit too meek as the accused witch and she lacked chemistry with Powell. Andrew Vogel and Ryan Winkler as the two brothers played off each other well but needed stronger direction to really make their comedy hit the mark. The same with Sandra Cruze as the befuddled mother.