SOUTH SALT LAKE CITY — Playing at the Parker Theatre now, Sword and the Stone gives its audience everything that it promises: action, adventure, and a fun way for children to be exposed to live theatre. This is a play that lives up to its potential and that I am glad that my kids could see.
The story of Sword and the Stone follows the traditional account of Arthur’s ascent to the throne: Arthur is born to the king Uther Pendragon and sent to be raised by a knight, Sir Ector. As a young man, Arthur works as a squire to Ector’s son, Kay. While hunting, Arthur meets the wizard Merlin, who tutors him in philosophy and politics. When they arrive in London for a tournament, they learn of a mysterious sword in the stone. Unbeknownst to Arthur, whoever pulls the sword from the stone is the rightful king of England.
Anyone who knows the name “King Arthur” knows that eventually Arthur must pull the sword from the stone. The script (by Spencer J. Hohl and Joanne M. Parker) is ideal for children because it is uncomplicated and lacking subtext. The action moves nicely from scene to scene, unencumbered by subplots or digressions. Director Joanne M. Parker regularly throws swordfights into the show, which inject excitement into an otherwise talky play. Presumably (because no dialogue coach is credited in the program), she is also responsible for the excellent accents that the cast employed, which hit the sweet spot between being noticeable but not forced.
Cole Elder plays Arthur as a curious young man who finds his new friendship with Merlin to be an exciting turn of events. Elder also shows Arthur’s bravery as he throws himself without hesitation into the sword fighting. Yet, Elder can also milk the tender moments of the script—such as when Arthur cries over Balamore’s death or when he gives his cloak to a cold peasant child—to give his character some dimension. Indeed, Elder’s entire performance is sincere and innocent, which made it believable that this youthful squire would forget to bring his knight’s sword to an important tournament.
Don’t mess with Natalie Myers as Morgana la Fay. With her commanding presence, aristocratic bearing, and cold glare, she is unmistakable as a villain. Her booming voice comes in handy when she casts a spell, and her intensity makes the elements compelled to obey her command. Along side her as an antagonist is Urience (played by Brinton Wilkins), Morgana’s husband and a usurper and tyrant who is making life miserable for the common people. With more brisk movements and a raised voice, Urience’s performance is a suitable contrast to Myers’s. Together, Morgana and Urience are complementary villains: her supernatural creepiness being balanced by his grounded worldly concerns of wealth and political power.
Bryson Dumas is memorable as the magician Merlin. Dumas has the perfect wizened voice and jolly demeanor for the role. Dumas is also the play’s best source of comic relief, and his jokes got a laugh every time. Another important supporting performer was Ryan Kinville as Kay. Kinville had an easy familiarity with Elder, and I enjoyed the loving brotherly relationship that the two displayed.
The costumes that Paige Burton designed for Sword and the Stone are exquisite. Every actor believably looks like they traveled in time from medieval England. Burton took great effort and care to make every costume look authentic, even for the non-speaking ensemble members. The women wore wimples on their heads, and the men wore archery bracers on their wrists. There was no rubber or plastic to be found on this stage.
Another pleasing technical element was Danna Barney‘s lighting design. The frequent use of gobos added texture to James B. Parker‘s set, and the piercing beams of light through the faint stage fog gave a layer of otherworldliness to the play. The animated projections (designed by Spencer J. Hohl) were a highlight of the evening for my 5-year-old daughter. I appreciated how the projections aided in establishing the setting, whether in the churchyard, a forest, or in a rainstorm.
Overall, attending Sword and the Stone is a wonderful activity for kids, ages 7 to 13. The two-hour show (including the 15-minute intermission) kept my 7-year-old son riveted. As a parent, I found the show to be a pleasant way to expose my children to one of the world’s most enduring tales of action, adventure, and magic. Sword and the Stone is a feast for the eyes and the imagination for both kids and parents.