Off Broadway

He Says: The Light Years: Sparks Fly and Than (Almost) Nothing

He Says: The Light Years: Sparks Fly and Than (Almost) Nothing
Rocco Sisto, Erik Lochtefeld

Rocco Sisto, Erik Lochtefeld. Photo by Joan Marcus

With a grand gesture, we are invited to step back into another time. It’s a grand beginning courtesy of The Debate Society and Playwrights Horizons, centered around a flash and a bang. As developed and directed by Oliver Butler, we focus our eyes on the charming spectacular, a play called The Light Years, written by the team of Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen. In turn, a soft light reveals a flamboyant impresario named Steele MacKaye (a fun and theatrical Rocco Sisto). He informs us of his dream, and how he has taken the steps towards trying to create something exciting and experimental. Steele, as we later are (secondarily) requested to refer to him by, has the strong willed audacity to attempt to build a 12,000 set spectacular theater for Chicago’s World Fair in 1893. He reminds me of a less-sexualized, more gentlemanly circus ringmaster from the Baz Luhrmann’s fantastical Moulin RougeIt is this quality, his desire to create something never seen before, that the creators of this unique and intricate play inhabit in their souls. This play carries a lot of the same vision and child-like fun, but sadly the light loses some focus and drive as we move deeper into the shadows of its lovely sad tale.

Aya Cash, Rocco Sisto, Erik Lochtefeld

Aya Cash, Rocco Sisto, Erik Lochtefeld. Photo by Joan Marcus

We meet this exuberant fellow, the could-be lost cousin to Moulin Rouge‘s Harold Zidler in the quietest of fashion (by candle light) but quickly jump to an earlier moment at the beginning to this venture, when he has more spring in his step and certainty of the future. Sharing his enthusiasm and quest for invention, is his loyal electrician, Hillary, played with an utterly charming boyishness and sense of purpose by Erik Lochtefeld (Misery), and his trusted assistant, Hong Sling (a warm, funny, and very appealing Brian Lee Huynh). We are then given the joyous introduction to his loving and lovely wife, Adeline, played with exacting charm by the very sweet Aya Cash (PH’s The Pain and the Itch). They are the most charming of couples that I have seen on stage in a long time.  A bit too good to be true, but the kind and adoring words they exchange are warming to behold, and we are instantly smitten by the two, just as Steele is.

Aya Cash, Ken Barnett, Graydon Peter Yosowitz

Aya Cash, Ken Barnett, Graydon Peter Yosowitz. Photo by Joan Marcus

In a surprising twist, the play travels forward and than back again to different moments in time. Guided by one of the inventions, the “Silent Unfolding Announcer” (SUA) that tell us when and where we are, we encounter another family at a soon-to-be-revealed symbolic 40 year timeframe later, disconnected but connected to that special and loving electrician. There is a frustrated composer/father, Lou (Ken Barnett), his stressed but loving wife, Ruth, who is surprisingly similar in appearance to the electrician’s wife (but not surprisingly played with a wondrous precision by Cash), and their son, Charlie (a wide-eyed Graydon Peter Yosowitz). This family is a bit more complex than the earlier couple, but they are a part of this kind love story that spans decades and is sweet in its simplicity. It’s also wrapped in cornball charm but also sadly, with an ever expanding sense of pointlessness. The emotionality of these people to each other is etched in real live and engagement, even at the worst of moments, but the over all impact leaves us scratching our communal heads. Bos and Thureen (co-writers of Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle and HBO’s High Maintenance) do an impressive job giving us clever loving dialogue and some wonderful engaging characters, but the big picture is a little harder to see.

Aya Cash, Ken Barnett, Graydon Peter Yosowitz

The production zings and swings us around time and place with a child-like wonder and excitement. The design team (scenic design by Laura Jellinek, costume design by three-time Tony Award nominee Michael Krass, lighting design by Obie Award winner Russell H. Champa, sound design by Lee Kinney and original music by Daniel Kluger) are as inventive and thrilled to challenge the norms of space and form as the ringleader of this venture, Steele MacKaye. But I was hoping that the light would shine a bit more brightly on an over arching raison d’être, other than a gentle love story wrapped in a tribute to a man’s indomitable spirit of invention. The Spectatorium which Steele wants to create sounds magnificent so we keep waiting for astounding, only to get quaint and sweet instead. It’s a lot of sound and fury, signifying, well not nothing, but something not enough.

Erik Lochtefeld

Erik Lochtefeld

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Off Broadway

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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