Review: The Lady’s Not for Burning (Alumnae Theatre)

andrea-brown-jennet-paul-cotton-humphrey-chris-coculuzzi-thomas

Toronto’s Alumnae Theatre presents a story of the witch trials in England in The Lady’s Not for Burning

For a gusty and frigid January evening, the Alumnae Theatre had a nicely sized audience for the Friday night opening of Christopher Fry’s The Lady’s Not for Burning. A play that seeks to countermand the authority of the mob mentality, making a case for being tolerant of the unknown, The Lady’s Not for Burning is a fairly decent comedy.

Taking place somewhere in the 1400s, The Lady’s Not for Burning centers around a young woman who is accused of being a witch by the town and is, therefore, sentenced to burn as ordered by the mayor. Concurrently, a young soldier arrives at the mayor’s house seeking help to end his own life in the gallows. Confusion, plenty of wordplay and minor fisticuffs ensue as the mayor’s household wrestles with the notion of the woman’s innocence, and the soldier comes to terms with his own desire to live.

I greatly enjoyed the dynamic created by the multi-generation-spanning cast, something that I haven’t seen too often. There’s a particularly special atmosphere created when you mix fresh faces with practiced veterans, and I think that concoction works in director Jane Carnwath’s favour.

Chris Coculuzzi as cynic and soldier Thomas Mendip adds great verve and gumption to the stage, something especially welcome for some moments where the energy drops. Fry’s text doesn’t sound like the easiest to work with, and while some of the lines felt lost at certain points, I think there were still more hits than misses. Another standout performance for me was the delightfully charming and almost melancholy Chaplain, played by Peter Higginson.

That being said, I did find the first act a little bit awkward to watch, if only due to some inconsistent staging. There was a lot of standing around and a lot of strange, seemingly choreographed blocking that had some characters advance forward only to move back to position. It dragged the first half out a little, though the action certainly picked up smoothly after the intermission.

With a full set designed to look like the interior of a stately medieval manor, and flowing period dress, Alumnae Theatre’s The Lady’s Not for Burning is a welcome escape from the woes of winter.

Details

  • The Lady’s Not for Burning is playing until February 8th, 2014 at the Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley Street).
  • Shows run Wednesdays to Saturdays at 8pm, Sunday at 2:30pm.
  • Ticket prices are $20, and are available online, or at the box office by calling (416) 364-4170.

Photo of Andrea Brown, Paul Cotton and Chris Coculuzzi by Dahlia Katz.

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