Closed 1h 45m
The Light Years
Midtown W
61

The Light Years NYC Reviews and Tickets

61%
(161 Reviews)
Positive
42%
Mixed
34%
Negative
24%
Members say
Disappointing, Ambitious, Slow, Confusing, Quirky

About the Show

Playwrights Horizons presents the world premiere of The Debate Society's whimsical drama about a theatrical impresario whose daring imagination has life-changing consequences.

Read more Show less

Member Reviews (161)

Sort by:
  • Default
  • Standing in our community
  • Highest first
  • Lowest first
  • Newest first
  • Oldest first
  • Only positive
  • Only negative
  • Only mixed
79
Ambitious, Quirky, Intelligent, Slow, Great staging

See it if Debate Society's latest atmospheric meta-drama Butler stages with panache on Jellinek's fabulous set but can't quite unite splintered script

Don't see it if Imaginative scenes & good acting (Sisto a standout) fails to engage us about time travelling tale of American dreamers Lots of style though

85
Ambitious, Charming, Imaginative, Thought-provoking, Quirky

See it if you have ever lived in hope. World Fairs are about the future even when things go wrong in the present. Lots of things go wrong, hope lives

Don't see it if you are too literal minded to imagine what comes next. Everyone in this play has a future and that future is now.

Critic Reviews (31)

March 13th, 2017

"Finds a sweet, plaintive and ultimately too unvaried melody in its stories of failed aspirations...What the production lacks, curiously, is the surprise of theatrical spontaneity...Alternates between the 1890s and the 1930s with fluid grace and clarity. It has an attentive ear for the language and mores of its different eras and the professional argot of its characters...You respect the avid curiosity of the show’s creators, but their interests don’t translate into infectious passion."
Read more

March 13th, 2017

"A theatrical cabinet of wonders...It’s the most ambitious contraption assembled to date by the 10-year-old Debate Society...Butler’s direction holds it all together, even if the first hour seems a trifle padded and meandering. While 'The Light Years' is ultimately tenuous in its dramatic circuitry, it gives off ample luminosity, powered by whimsy and wonder."
Read more

March 13th, 2017

"Plenty of wattage but little illumination...The time-bouncing tale falls far short of the historic, personal and cosmic connections the show’s creators are so clearly after. It’s a muddle of thinly realized notions, wrapped in a quirky sensibility that estranges rather than endears...'The Light Years' over-aspires, while at the same time feels eerily incomplete and disconnected...Themes are presented in a sometimes-arch, sometimes-haunting style that fails to jell or engage."
Read more

March 20th, 2017

"You’d think with all the talk of illumination there’d be clarity. Not so much in this collaboration of writers Hanna Bos and Paul Thureen and director Oliver Butler, collectively known as Debate Society. The focus—such as it is—are thwarted dreamers at Chicago’s World Fairs in 1893 and 1933...Neither succeeds. Except for maintaining a wistful tone, the overlong show doesn’t either."
Read more

March 13th, 2017

“Playing a legendary man of the theater, Sisto explodes with extravagant vitality…In Butler's lavish yet restrained staging, the house becomes like an eighth character…Butler displays an impressive command of time, speeding the narrative up and slowing it down so this decade-hopping story comes together seamlessly…Even though it drags in sections, it is impossible not to admire the sheer audacity of building a play around the necessity of failure in the creative process.”
Read more

March 15th, 2017

“Audiences love a good story about pioneering innovators who succeed despite the odds, and ‘The Light Years'’ affection for those who fail despite a grand effort is certainly worthy. The cast does a terrific job, but while the play has amusing and empathetic moments, the evening quickly loses steam when the authors start getting philosophical in their attempts to establish a connection between the two sets of characters.”
Read more

March 23rd, 2017

"Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen have conceived a complex, clanking piece of dramatic machinery that produces such tiny and inconsequential revelations that one has to wonder if all that effort was really worth it...What really makes 'The Light Years' so lackluster is that, MacKaye aside, none of these characters are very interesting...This is especially unfortunate, since the stage is filled with such appealing performers...An elaborate dream that never comes to fruition."
Read more

March 13th, 2017

"Despite the exciting, ironclad concept and a wealth of possibilities, the characters and the action are inert early on and preposterous later, without a smooth transition between the states. The sole energizing force is the women...The performers work intensely, and land most of their laughs, but don't find the emotional connections that Cash and MacKaye do. Not that there's that much to find...'The Light Years' is memorable more for what it tries than what it accomplishes."
Read more

March 16th, 2017

"Ambitious, theatrical and imaginative...The scenario is engaging and the characters are lovingly rendered. The material is perfectly realized by Mr. Butler’s vibrant direction...The actual plots are not overly gripping, but are part of the show’s warm fabric of presenting these bygone eras of American life with charm, whimsy and humanity...Though stylized, the performances never devolve into parody."
Read more

March 13th, 2017

"Its lack of focus diminishes its impact...The two plot lines run on parallel tracks...While they don’t detract from each other, neither do they add...Coexistence is a good thing in many situations, but it doesn’t provide much dramatic tension...Oliver Butler’s direction is fine but doesn’t clarify the play’s point of view or justify its lacking one. Many individual scenes and moments work well on their own but don’t contribute to the piece as a whole."
Read more

March 13th, 2017

"Their stories have a lovely Americana flavor, but aren't too saccharine to overlook that as everyman-woman-child counterparts they also had to deal with dreams that go sour...Butler has assembled a fine cast to navigate the 40-years apart worlds...Butler not only keeps the actors fluidly moving back and forth in time but around the versatile basic set...While 'The Light Years' covers a lot of ground, it would be even better if it could do so in about ten minutes less."
Read more

March 14th, 2017

“A long and uneventful story…This is a well-intentioned piece, but it is missing the ‘WHY’ that is the required center of every story ever told…The dialogue is bland and disconnected. They speak, but their words don’t connect…These characters never step out of two dimensions and into the world of living, breathing beings. We leave the theatre filled with fascinating anecdotes. Our hunger for humanity, however, remains unsatisfied.”
Read more

March 13th, 2017

"This play carries a lot of the same vision and childlike fun, but sadly the light loses some focus and drive as we move deeper into the shadows of its lovely sad tale...Bos and Thureen do an impressive job giving us clever, loving dialogue and some wonderful, engaging characters, but the big picture is a little harder to see...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."
Read more

March 19th, 2017

"These dual time periods create interesting opportunities for both performance and design...The difference, brought out all the more by Cash playing both wives, is fascinating to watch. Two distinct kinds of affection are on display here...The set and costumes take advantage of the time period jumps, too...Overall, the design shines...Even with such a great sense of time period, deep connections form between these worlds and our own."
Read more

T
March 16th, 2017

“A pleasant, but less than fulfilling concoction…There are deaths, explosions emitting from dreamy contraptions, actors roaming among the audience, and dialogue that certainly tickles the audience, if not my particular funny bone….The actors are all very good…It is certainly recommended for a family’s night out. There is a bright and curious child, flashing bulbs of all sizes and shapes, constellations sparkling from above, and even some history that goes down easily.”
Read more

March 22nd, 2017

“The concept seems forced in order to make a point about following one's dream and to offer a theatrical image of differences in American society across the years. MacKaye's tale alone, and what he went through before having to scale back his goals, would have made a far more interesting play about American aspiration and technological progress, especially if some creative means had been found to represent what he was after. Here we get some light but very little illumination.”
Read more

March 14th, 2017

“Time intertwines these two couples together as their lives pass back and forth in a romantic, yet magical way…The cast is award-winning with Ms. Cash superbly inhabiting both roles…Bos and Thureen have a way with dialogue, but not with endings. We see and learn so much, and are rapt the whole time, but it is not the words that impress us in the end, but the spectacular lights..Sadly what started out with a bang, leaves us empty and unfulfilled in the end.”
Read more

B
March 18th, 2017

"The alternation of scenes between the two time periods is not really confusing, but produces a repeated loss of focus. Just as the aspirations of almost everyone in the play are not achieved, neither are the aspirations of the play’s creators. Despite the fine acting, impressive set design by Laura Jellinek, great period costumes by Michael Krass and an amazing lighting design by Russell H. Champa, the play fizzles rather than sizzles."
Read more

March 14th, 2017

“A stitched together creation with each part somehow shakily competent but not quite satisfying…Despite a game cast and some solid technical work, neither section of ‘The Light Years’ holds any interest on their own. And cutting back and forth simply underlines that lack of innate drama (or comedy, as the case may be). The technical elements are solid though the play itself can’t quite inspire greatness…The cast does what it can with very thin material.”
Read more

March 15th, 2017

“A charming if slightly belabored play…Utter chaos, developed and directed with a genuine thrill of what-will-happen-next by Oliver Butler, unfolds...‘The Light Years’ is best in when it is playing with the world of light, and a little more plodding when it trades in conventional domestic drama...But the play is bound and threaded by a belief in creativity and wonder; a wide-eyed pleasure in all that we don’t know, and then bamboozle ourselves trying to invent.”
Read more

March 14th, 2017

“‘The Light Years’ tosses off lots and lots of ideas. Unfortunately, it omits the glue that might help the audience put them together…The play, which uses a moving scroll at the side of the stage—MacKaye’s invention—to provide added information, is, I’d guess, a cautionary but hopeful tale about human progress, the eternal, love, life, death and things I’m sure I missed. It’s certainly not uninteresting, but it’s extremely frustrating in its lack of connective tissue.”
Read more

March 13th, 2017

“Bos and Thureen’s script too often gets bogged down by didacticism, as if all the keen bits of historical lore they uncovered in their research had to be included. Unfortunately, it doesn’t substitute for dramatic conflict, and the struggles on both sides of the 40-year gap don’t really seize and hold one’s attention the way the visuals do. The actors perform well…But one wishes there were a more compelling reason to spend time with these characters than living history.”
Read more

March 14th, 2017

"[I]t is the script by Ms. Bos and Mr. Thureen that makes 'The Light Years' one the best new plays in quite some time."
Read more

March 14th, 2017

“The two intercut stories seem to fade in and out, rather than gaining momentum or strength from each other. Laden with explanations of historical tidbits that are hard to care about, both stories also contain glitchy, arbitrary turns that keep distancing the characters from us...Full of visual beauty, intelligent writing and fine acting, 'The Light Years' nonetheless seems to orbit farther away from our grasp with each new scene.”
Read more

March 18th, 2017

"Cash is excellent as both female protagonists...Oliver Butler's direction is tight and focused, giving the two time periods distinction while avoiding confusion...The play gets point just for being different. This is not your typical story or presentation. An amazing amount of storytelling occurs in one hours and 45 minutes with no intermission...The play can be a bit scattered and struggles to find its ending."
Read more

March 13th, 2017

"I think what kept me engaged throughout the performance was the desire and hope that there would be something to engage with, something potent, some kind of payoff. That payoff never came...I suppose we're meant to be enchanted by the journey the families take...There were nice performances throughout, particularly from Cash, Lochtefeld, and Barnett, all of which added value to the performance. But it just didn't grab me."
Read more

March 19th, 2017

“A story of inspiration and ingenuity…A heartfelt story of struggle, loss, and persistence. Director Oliver Butler chooses a distinctive style for the production that captures the spirit of the time period…The actors create a clear illusion that makes it easy and enjoyable to follow…The entire cast does an amazing job with this well written script, yet the stylistic concept of the characterizations does not allow for a personalized connection to the audience.”
Read more

March 14th, 2017

“Full of unique pleasures that make it something very special…The writing itself has a special charm, with a funny and slightly offbeat sensibility…Those warm, passionate, and hopeful characters are given life by a small but spectacular cast…Innovation, art, family, history, and destiny all collide in this beautiful production. The Spectatorium may have been a dramatic failure, but over 100 years later it has given birth to something incandescent and unforgettable in ‘The Light Years.’”
Read more

March 13th, 2017

"A very unusual play...We are transported to more innocent times, when novelty could inspire and awe and was not an unsophisticated or naive response...Every part of the theater space is treated to a bit of the performance. There are lights and things that go poof as well as narratives to explicate the drama. The ensemble engage, entertain and instruct...'The Light Years' uses some of the devices Steele MacKaye introduced to turn this small-scale production into a grand spectacle."
Read more

B
March 15th, 2017

"According to the program, the Debate Society spent seven years working on 'The Light Years,' and what has resulted is a strange, bewilderingly random series of scenes...There seems to be nothing happening on stage in 'The Light Years'—there is nothing at stake, and no narrative really emerges...Some of the actors manage to make individual moments come briefly alive...Might have some charm in a small storefront space, but it doesn’t have any impact at all in this venue."
Read more

March 13th, 2017

"Russell H. Champa’s lighting design makes use of the stage to excellent effect, balancing bright lights with more tempered darkness...'The Light Years' is a heartfelt story of two families, living decades apart, but still dealing with the same fears, hopes, and tragedies. The outstanding performances, as well as the brilliant set design, bring this heartfelt story to life."
Read more

Watch This Next (3)

83
Great
1K+ Reviews
Open run
NYC: East Village

This family-friendly show celebrates the power of percussion and the sheer joy of banging on things.

Buy
82
Great
500+ Reviews
Open run
NYC: Midtown W

An actor drinks heavily (in the vein of Comedy Central's 'Drunk History') and then tries to corral others into…

Buy
81
Great
29 Reviews
Opens Aug 09
NYC: Upper W Side

Shakespeare in the Park is back this summer with Jocelyn Bioh's joyous adaptation of "Merry Wives."

Buy