When I saw that Draper Historic Theatre was doing an original play about princesses and knights, I must admit, I suppressed an eye roll. I was certain that would mean I was in for an evening of poorly executed slapstick, corny puns, and a thinly veiled moral delivered by an overacting heroine. But Knight for Day is none of these things. Draper’s debut of the original, family friendly play by Paul and Patrick Gibbs is charming, delightful and full of heart. While the performance I saw had its share of flaws, the show’s solid cast, witty dialogue and feel good message left me enchanted and uplifted.
Knight for a Day is the story of Ariana (Rosalie Bertrand), a princess who would rather fight with the knights than parade around in frilly gowns. In contrast, her brother Prince Philip (Patrick Gibbs) wants nothing to do with fighting and leading his country; he would rather be a court jester. When their father is lured away from the castle so that his evil brother Cyril (Justin Bruse) can take over, the two siblings each find themselves using their own unique talents to save the day.
The cast is all around very solid, but the clear standout is Rosalie Bertrand as its head. Ms. Bertrand is spirited, hilarious and all around delight to watch. She is equally as confident in playing jokes about cute boys as she is wielding a sword in a floor length gown. Her energy lit the theatre, and she created a wildly entertaining heroine whose insecurities made her sweet, and whose sincerity resonated. She gave a performance of strength that one does not soon forget. Other highlights included Justin Bruse as Ariana’s evil uncle Cryil, whose performance was ominous without being cheesy, yet still retained a comic edge when the dialogue called for it; Becky Gardner and Alexa Rideout as the hilarious and energetic sidekicks to Ms. Bertrand’s plucky princess; and Zachari Michael Reynolds as the charming and Flynn Rider-esque rogue soldier Gaspard.
The play featured a huge amount of sword fighting, which was impressive both in its bulk, creativity and precision. Too often stage duels carry a frightening edge of reality that makes the audience uncomfortable, but the cast of Knight for a Day all seemed well practiced, capable and controlled with weapons in hand. The choreography was also highly varied, so that you did not feel that you were watching the same fight over and over again. However, some of the hand-to-hand moves used, such as punches and slaps, were poorly executed. The actors often reacted late or not at all, and sound effects did not synch with the motion.
The set and costumes were both simplistic, if not slightly amateurish, but did not detract from the show. The only thing that did distract was a few bad accents, which made some of the dialogue difficult to understand. However, the use of music throughout the show was very appropriate and well placed, and added to the swashbuckling theatricality that surrounded the entire piece.
As an overall experience, Draper Historic Theatre’s Knight for a Day is absolutely delightful. The few flaws that plague the production are minute in comparison to the show’s big heart. Paul and Patrick Gibbs have written a sweet and charming play that leaves its audience uplifted and smiling. With its witty dialogue, swashbuckling adventure and a sincere and sweet message about being true to yourself, Knight for a Day is sure to delight audiences of all ages.
Knight for a Day plays at Draper Historic Theatre Oct 14, 15, 17, 21, 22, 24, 28 and 29. Evening performances are at 7 pm with one matinee on Oct. 22 at 2 pm. Tickets on sale now at www.drapertheatre.org $5/child, $7/Student/Senior/Military, and $9 adult.