The Lady's Not for Burning
British playwright Fry’s attempt to revive verse comedy, first seen in London in 1948, then on Broadway in 1950, was well received at the time—not surprisingly, given a Broadway cast that included Sir John Gielgud and Richard Burton. But stateside, at least, the play’s rarely revived. It’s easy to guess why: Relatively little action happens onstage in Fry’s pastoral plot, in which a 15th-century war veteran, disillusioned with life, begs to be hanged but is ignored by a small-town gentry more concerned with hunting a suspected witch, the lady of the title, who’s very much against being burned.
The pleasure and the point of Fry’s script is its gorgeously heightened language, densely witty wordplay in blank verse. Without actors at the Gielgud-Burton level, a traditional proscenium production of Lady could easily feel distancing and draining. Or, as an audience member near me put it at intermission, “Gosh, this is so much language!” .
But that same quality makes Fry’s comedy an ideal match for Theo Ubique’s cabaret intimacy. Practically in our laps, cast members don’t have to be dialectically dexterous to the OBE degree to keep us compelled—though Anzevino’s cast is certainly quite skilled and roundly possessed of sharp comic timing. Layne Manzer imbues the soldier with a charming, world-weary swagger, while Jenny Lamb strikes the right note of frustrated reason as the “witch”; Drew Longo’s nicely underplayed turn as an addlepated chaplain stands out among the terrific supporting cast.