Saturday, March 18, 2017

Off-Broadway Review: The Light Years

Rocco Sisto, Aya Cash & Erik Lochtefeld. Photo: Joan Marcus
The Light Years
By Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen
Developed and Directed by Oliver Butler
Presented by The Debate Society
and Playwrights Horizons
Through April 2

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
It's 1893 and 1933 all at the same time, in this world premiere of the new play written by The Debate Society Co-Artistic Directors Hannah Bos (The Open House) and Paul Thureen (Blood Play). Circumstances around the World's Fair in Chicago merge with family struggles 40 years later, both linked by the light of a star.

In 1893, Hillary (Erik Lochtefeld) works on the piece de resistance for fair,  the 12,000 seat "Spectatorum" theater, the vision of Steele MacKaye (Rocco Sisto). It's a moon that, with the help of assistant Hong Sling (Brian Lee Huynh) will make an electrifying entrance for the crowd -- if they don't electrocute themselves in the effort.

Hillary's wife, Adeline (Ava Cash) is an enthusiastic supporter of the project until tragedy occurs. Some 40 years later, another family lives in the same house and the wife, Ruth (also Cash), bears a striking resemblance to Adeline. Her husband, Lou (Ken Barnett), is having a hard time supporting his wife and son, Charie (Graydon Peter Yosowitz) as a jingle writer and Ruth find work at the fairgrounds in a pancake shop. Sling and Hillary show factor in with a surprise for Ruth.

What Are the Highlights?
Cash, who is known as Gretchen on the FX series “You’re the Worst,” is excellent as both female protagonists. The action is not linear with action from both time periods intermingling. She makes some quick costume changes and effectively portrays two separate, yet linked characters. 

Oliver Butler's direction is tight and focuses, giving the two time periods distinction while avoiding confusion. Lighting by Russell  H. Champa provides lighting which helps convey the mystical feel of the piece as well as providing direct routes of light from the star that links the action to earth on the front of the proscenium.

The play gets point just for being different. This is not your typical story or presentation (a trademark of shows presented at Playwrights Horizons). An amazing amount of storytelling occurs in one hours and 45 minutes with no intermission. I really enjoyed the adventure of traveling through time and thinking through the mind of an inventor.

What Are the Lowlights?
The play can be a bit scattered and struggles to find its ending.

More Information:
The Light Years plays at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St., NYC through April 2. playwrightshorizons.or

Additional credits:
Scenic Design by Laura Jellinek, Costume Design by Michael Krass, Sound Design by Lee Kinney, Original Music by Daniel Kluger, Wigs by Paul Huntley. 

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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