Keuka play set 529 years ago: The Lady's Not for Burning

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
Brian Cobb and John Christensen, both of Penn Yan, rehearse for the Oct. 17 - 19 production of The Lady's Not for Burning at Keuka College.

A romantic comedy in three acts, Keuka College’s fall theatrical production, The Lady’s Not for Burning  is set in the Middle Ages.

Written by Christopher Fry, the play reflects the world’s “exhaustion and despair” following World War II with a war-weary soldier who wants to die, and an accused witch who wants to live. In form, it resembles Shakespeare’s pastoral comedies.

Directed by Professor of Theatre Mark Wenderlich, The Lady’s Not for Burning opens Friday, Oct. 17. The show begins at 8 p.m. in the Red Barn Theater, with additional performances Saturday, Oct. 18 at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 19 at 1 p.m. and again at 7 p.m.

“There are some neat angles in this show, as the play is co-produced by the Pennsylvania Yankee Theatre Co. (PYTCo.), the Division of Humanities and Fine Art, and the Arion Players Drama Club,” said Wenderlich. “Two town people are in the cast, and we also have two alumni and a staff member [in the production],” says Wenderlich.

Thomas Mendip, a discharged soldier, weary of the world and eager to leave it, comes to small town Cool Clary, announces he has committed murder and demands to be hanged. A philosophical humorist, Thomas is annoyed when the officials oppose his request, even believing he is not guilty of the crime he suggests. Shortly afterward, a young woman, Jennet, is brought before the mayor for witchcraft, but for some strange reason she has no wish to be put to death.

A dark comedy of rare wit and exulted language, Thomas tries, in his own way, to prove to the official how absurd it would be to refuse to hang a man who wants to be hanged, and at the same time to kill a woman who is not only guiltless, but doesn’t want to die. Jennet enjoys the banter, and soon sees the merit in Thomas the man.

The mayor’s family members, clerks and officials gather for an impending wedding and seem to be stuck with the dilemma of two uninvited people — who may or may not be hanged in the morning who must be included in the pre-nuptial activities.

First produced in England, The Lady’s Not for Burning had a successful run in New York. It has proved, because of its delightful freshness, the dramatic thrust of its poetry, and the sheer high spirits with which the author has endowed his characters, a joy to producer and actor, as well as to the audience.

The New York Herald Tribune called it “a poetic fantasy of rare splendor and delight…a work of magical humor and deep beauty.”

The cast includes Penn Yan resident Brian Cobb ’08, who returns to his alma mater to portray Thomas Mendip in the production. Cobb teaches English at Penn Yan Academy. Logan Ackerly also returns to his alma mater and will portray Humphrey. Ackerly serves as an installation merchandiser at Hallmark Cards in the Greater New York City Area. John P. Christensen, reporter for The Chronicle Express portrays Hebble Tyson, mayor. Eileen Farrar, a Penn Yan resident who has worked with PYTCo., portrays Margaret. Justin Krog, program developer for the College’s Office of Information Technology Services (ITS), portrays Tappercoom.

Ryan Gillotti (Richard), a senior American Sign Language-English interpreting major from Auburn; Alicia Brown (Alizon Elliot), a senior occupational science major from Kirkwood; Phil Atherlay (Nichols), a junior adolescent English/special education major from Deposit; Jake Banas (Chaplain), a senior English major from Delmar; and Caleigh Alterio ’14 (Jennet Jourdamaine), who is pursuing her degree in occupational therapy.

Amelia Gonnella, a freshman clinical science major from Marcellus, serves as stage manager.

Tickets are $5 for Keuka College students, faculty, staff, and alumni; and $10 for the general public. Seating is limited. Tickets for The Lady’s not for Burning can be purchased in advance on instant seats.com, and are available at the box office.