The Lady's Not For Burning | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Lady's Not For Burning 

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THE LADY'S NOT FOR BURNING, Theo Ubique Theatre Company, at the Wheadon Center for Worship and the Arts. "The moon is nothing / But a circumambulating aphrodisiac / Divinely subsidized to provoke the world / Into a rising birthrate." These lines from Christopher Fry's 1948 verse play--delivered by Thomas Mendip, a disillusioned soldier in love with an entrancing truth seeker--represent just a sliver of the work's sheer gorgeousness.

It's 1400 and the market town of Cool Clary is busily persecuting Jennet Jourdemayne, the daughter of a failed alchemist whose love of science is seen as sorcery. Condemned to be burned but enthralled by life's daily miracles, this "witch" wants only to live. Meanwhile the cynical Thomas hopes to be executed. Naturally they cure each other, love driving out the fear of both life and death.

Fry's consummate dialogue offers a free flow of supple imagery and enraptured wordplay. Director Fred Anzevino is wise to find actors as earnest as the language. Matt Yde handles Thomas's coruscating lines with easy mastery, while Beata Swiderska's Jennet breathes all the mystery of this magnificent dreamer. The delicious supporting roles are well represented: Andrew Bloch is the self-effacing clerk who wins the hand of a beautiful heiress, played by Sarah Haught; Brownson Ives Cullen is the chaplain whose real god is his faithful violin; and Penny Slusher plays the fussbudget chatelaine. But as the mayor, supposedly hilarious in his ineffectuality, Scott Cooper is a tad serious if not downright sinister.

--Lawrence Bommer


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