The Mage Knights of the Eternal Light is a smart, funny play by M.F.A. playwriting candidate Amanda Zeitler. This is her senior thesis project in Catholic University’s Department of Drama, but she has already been featured at Capital Fringe and the Kennedy Center’s Page to Stage Festival.
It is the story of Dawn, grieving for her father and escaping into a fantasy world that kind of shows up in her bedroom – for real. It’s an intriguing mix of tense drama over her father’s alcoholism and her own growing obsessions and humor as high fantasy manners meets the modern world.
Zeitler excels at the details and the big picture – delivering one liners that has the audience screaming with laughter and weaving a plot that builds each character’s wishes into an explosive climax – literally. If I had one critique it would be the slow warmup. Zeitler excels at her job and I didn’t need much of the backstory of the first few scenes – these characters are clear the moment they cross worlds. That when the play is at its best, when Laertes and Lorai encounter Mom. Seth Rosenke and Teresa Catherine (Laertes and Lorai Silvertree) are hilarious in their utter commitment to these roles dressed in dramatic pleather by costumer designer Julie Cray. They also hold up under a barrage of sword fights choreographed by Casey Kaleba, particularly with the excellent arch villain Archer Night (Grant Cloyd) whose arch villainess is enhanced by lights and sound by Andrew Cissna and Frank DiSalvo Jr. In a story filled with magic, the special effects become essential.
Tori Boutin and Noah Beye (Ruby and Parker) perfectly capture teenage angst and have great comic timing and Kimberlee Wolfson (Arena Collins) kills it as the mother. The heart of the play is Kelsey Murphy (Dawn Collins) who plays this heartbroken teen with conviction that never tips into pity or melodrama.
Director Katherine Chase Bryer stitched together these two worlds which is a feat, particularly at the beginning when black netting hides the two worlds from one another on a modern set by Lewis Folden. It’s a very complicated production and she successfully builds the story scene by scene.
Overall, Catholic University does a stellar job, and Zeitler’s homage to the genre she clearly loves so much is a touching and entertaining piece of theater.
Running Time: Two hours, with one 10-minute intermission.
The Mage Knights of the Eternal Light plays through February 21, 2015 at The Catholic University of America’s Hartke Theater – 3801 Harewood Road, NE, in Washington, D.C. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 319-4000, or purchase them online.