Unlike a famous novel of 1984, the lightness of being is not unbearable. Not, that is, for The Light Princess, who is sublimely uncaring about her inability to have any interaction with gravity. For those who have the deal with her, however, the situation is truly unbearable.
The basic premise of this light-hearted (pun) fantasy is that a royal couple make an agreement with The Queen’s evil sister to have a child. The birth takes place quickly (only a day!), but the King and Queen (Gretchen Wirges) quickly discover their daughter will float away without constant attention. If the Princess does not find her gravity by the age of 16, the evil one (played to the hilt by Julia Balestracci) will take over the throne from the hapless King (David Gunther).
This play, currently on stage at the Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre, is adapted from an 1867 fairy tale by the Scottish author George MacDonald. Book is by Lila Rose Kaplan, with music and lyrics by Mike Pettry. This musical premiered in New York in 2015 and rightly received a fine review in The New York Times. This is pure escapism, exactly what one needs in this politically-charged environment. It was not hard to settle into this alternate reality.
The Light Princess is very disarming, and makes you want to like it. Even the rudimentary set, which required the Princess to be carried aloft instead of raised up on wires, did not detract from its charm. The Princess herself, played by Grace Otto, is hard to identify with, as she elicits no empathy. Seemingly oblivious to everything of substance, she quite literally rises above the dire concern of her parents, who try to marry her off to a cast of unsuitable suitors.
Meanwhile the Witch (the Queen’s evil sister) steals the show. Balestracci has obviously watched the movie Hocus Pocus, and would make a great witch for any Halloween.
Aside from the inanity of it all, there is a serious subtext to the play. When trying to determine what might induce the Princess to feel the force of gravity so that she could touch the ground and walk, The Queen states “Love is what gives us gravity.” Once the Princess finds her Prince (Aubrey King), that thesis is put to the ultimate test.
King has a fine voice, which helps to compensate for some off-key vocals by Otto, whose acting is far superior to her singing. Wirges does a great job as the lovelorn Queen, and Gunther offers just the right touch of regality to match the farcical happenings all around him. A delightful production, and one that I heartily recommend seeing before it ends on Feb. 23
Visit the website for tickets: scoundrelandscamp.org