Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

The Lady's Not for Burning
Grand Canyon University
Review by Gil Benbrook

Also see Gil's reviews of Women in Jeopardy and The Band's Visit

Sophia Jestice and Morgan Sia
Photo by Tim Trumble
Playwright Christopher Fry's 1949 comedy The Lady's Not for Burning was quite popular when it first premiered; it even won the New York Drama Critic's Circle award for Bet Foreign Play. While it's not performed that regularly today, Fry's witty dialogue and collection of charming characters makes for a fun and amusing comedy. Grand Canyon University's production features a talented cast of actors, sure-footed direction, and sublime creative elements.

Set around 1400, the main plot follows a pair of disparate individuals, the depressed and recently discharged soldier Thomas Mendip, who, claiming he murdered a man, demands to be hanged immediately, and the sweet, yet somewhat desperate, Jennet Jourdemayne, who has been accused of turning her neighbor into a dog and condemned as a witch. As riots break out on the streets outside, since the public demands a burning, Mayor Hebble Tyson is left to determine the fate of both Thomas and Jennet. On top of Mayor Tyson's dilemma, he has to deal with his sister, her two bickering sons, the girl who is arranged to marry one of the boys, his clerk, and a few other whimsical characters, including the neighbor who Jennet was accused of turning into a dog and that Thomas said he murdered, who all come in and out of his house.

Fry wrote the play just after World War II, which may explain why Mendip is depicted as a world and war weary solider, and his use of verse and puns results in a piece that feels like a Shakespearean comedy at times. While the play may not have had the lasting impact of the more well-regarded work of George Bernard Shaw, Noel Coward, or Oscar Wilde, many of which touched upon social ramifications and behaviors of the times, The Lady's Not for Burning is still quite winning and endearingly charming.

Director Claude Pensis has assembled an engaging cast, all of whom play up the charms and comical elements of their characters. Pensis also makes great use of the gorgeous set by Jeff Thomson, which uses elements resembling rich wood and stone, to stage the comical shenanigans. The costumes by Aislynn Oliver are stunningly gorgeous and period perfect, and Pensis' lighting is quite evocative.

Morgan Sia is appropriately brooding as Thomas Mendip, while Sophia Jestice is quite moving as Jennett. Sia's delivery of Fry's witty dialogue is perfect and Jestice creates an endearing, elegant woman who seems to be the only sane person in town. Dawson Woolridge is perfect as the frazzled mayor and Kenzie Huether is a hoot as his high-strung and dismissive sister. Nicholas Ryszkowski and Jacson Swain are hilarious as the bickering and squabbling brothers, who are enamored with and competitive over every woman they meet, including Jennett. Kylie Boggus and Cooper Townley are charming as the girl engaged to one of the brothers and the mayor's clerk, respectively. Dexter Tuten, Jassiel Rodriguez, and AJ Flores comically play three supporting characters.

Grand Canyon University's production of this rarely seen romantic comedy is funny, entertaining, and very worthwhile.

The Lady's Not for Burning runs through February 20, 2022, at Grand Canyon University's Ethington Theatre, 3300 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix AZ. For ticket and information, please visit or call 602-639-8880

Director: Claude Pensis
Assistant Director: Mackenzie Reppy
Scenic Designer: Jeff Thomson
Lighting Designer Claude Pensis
Costume Designer: Aislynn Oliver
Hair and Makeup Designers: Jessica Rumrill and Em Uranga
Technical Director: Carrie Hurst
Sound Designer: Dalton Smith

Thomas Mendip: Morgan Sia
Jennet Jourdemayne: Sophia Jestice
Richard: Cooper Townley
Tyson Hebble: Dawson Woolridge
Edward Tappercoom: Dexter Tuten
Margaret Devise: Kenzie Huether
Nicholas Devise: Nicholas Ryszkowski
Humphrey Devise: Jacson Swain
Chaplain: Jassiel Rodriguez
Alizon Eliot: Kylie Boggus
Matthew Skipps: AJ Flores