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A CurtainUp Review
Light Years
I let her {my mother} go . . . cut her off! Twenty-one years is enought
--- Daphne, a clinging, dependent freshman, who goes from dependency to apron string cutting to the bittersweet acceptance by graduation that I will never be a dancer. I will never be a scholar.
Anne Marie Nest
Anne Marie Nest
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
Billy Aronson's comedy having its world premiere at Playwrights Horizon is a twenty-first century style drawing room farce. Instead of the traditional drawing room, the setting is a nameless college residence. The doors that get slammed are in a dormitory suite and, less visibly and audibly, on the insecurities of four young men and women whose on-again-off-again-on-again connections Aronson has turned into an at times silly, as often sad as funny, and always sympathetic group portrait in which the individuality of each character stands out.

Light Years began as a short play presented at Ensemble Studio's One-Act Marathons (see link below), and I can see where it took more time to present the freshman to graduate odyssey of Courtney', Daphne, Doug and Michael. On the other hand, there are times when this longer version, has a stretched-out rubber band feeling. Fortunately, Jamie Richards, who directed the the lighter Light Years is directing this full featured version and the four young actors -- Paul Bartholomew, Ian Reed Kssler, Anne-Marie Nest and Sarah Rose -- from the EST production are back on board and they couldn't be better. Consequently, the rubber band spots may be regarded as minor to middling drawbacks to a generally enjoyable ninety minutes.

Essentially Light Years is a coming of age story, the title less about the lightness and fun of the college years than the light of self and general knowledge that penetrates, the light sometimes dawning with unbearable harshness. Aronson divides things evenly between his characters. Graduation day shows two of his characters to have the future firmly in hand, and two who will need at least another four years to grapple with who they are and what they're going to be when they grow up.

Sarah Rose
Sarah Rose
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
The present version of the play is structured into three intermissionless scenes, beginning with freshman move-in and get acquainted day and fast forwarding to sophomore year and then graduation day. Scene one, the original one-act, is a quick jolt that will bring back one's own memories of those first awkward, scary and exciting days of closing the door on life in Anytown or Anycity USA and opening the door to a new parent-free life.

With a few deft strokes the playwright fills in a lot of information about the two coeds who, though they've known each other just two hours, seem destined to be good friends. American-as-apple-pie pretty blonde Courtney (the wonderfully winning Anne Marie Nest) is clearly the more self-assured as as evident from advice to wide-eyed Daphne (an aptly eager-to-please, intense Sarah Rose) on campus life. Since her advice emphasizes the fine points of "appearing to be or not be taken. " it seems that dating game talk is as timeless as the once again fashionable 50s pedal pushers both girls wearing.

Ian Reed Kesler
Ian Reed Kesler
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
Enter the two males who make up this collegiate quartet. First, comes tall, shy and awkward Doug (his nerdy charm perfectly captured by Paul Bartholomew) -- and, after a bit his roommate Michael (Ian Reed Kesler, at once comical and morose as the group's rebel without a cause). As the kookiest and most unlikely to succeed of the foursome, Michael also has some of the best lines (for example, his opening salvo: " All day I have been feeling so much like cartoon that I have to pull my skin to see if I'm real" and his droll "you mean I'm not losing an umbilical chord but gaining a navel " when one of the girls cuts him loose) .

As Courtney's constant efforts to make everyone feel good are a crutch to boost her own insecurities, so Doug's literally instant success in putting Courtney in the "taken " category is a hint that while his shyness may erupt into the occasional stammer, he's no loser. That instant sexual coup is as sexy as things are going to get. The big bang of this opening scene comes when Daphne receives a bombshell of news over the phone. Light Years, you see, is not about sex, but about learning the difference between sex and friendship, less about finding a lover than and finding oneself .
Paul Bartholomew
Paul Bartholomew
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
The second scene remains in the dorm room, but thanks to NarelleSissons' clever, flexible set its walls are now pushed out and filled out with bookcases and the plastic crate has been replaced by a real table and instead of candles it holds cheese and crackers indicating a social tete-a-tete in the offing. But the furniture isn't the only thing that's changed. Courtney's roommate is now one of the boys. I won't go into details here. but you may be sure that there will be further re-grouping by the time the dormitory furniture is moved out and the scene shifts to the denouement in a college hall within sight of the area where parents have assembled for the graduation ceremonies.

While none of this adds up to anything earth shatteringly new and, in fact, often smacks of a pilot for a sitcom, Aronson does not settle for a typical right boy matched to right girl happy ending. Daphne must heal from having been stabbed by disappointment. One can only hope Michael will be a late bloomer that Doug will continue to ride the wave of success he's caught. Above all one hopes that Courtney will continue to "see beauty where no one sees it." If that spirit rubs off on the audience Light Years will have brought some light into all our lives.

Marathon 2000 Series "A" One-Acts Plays

Written by Billy Aronson
Directed by Jamie Richards
Cast: Paul Bartholomew, Ian Reed Kesler, Anne Marie Nest, Sarah Rose
Set Design: Narelle Sassoon
Costume Design: Amela Baksic
Sound Design Laura Grace Brown
Lighting Design: Michael Lincoln
Fight Director/Dace consultant: Luis Perez
Running Time: 90 minutes without intermission
Playwrights Horizons at Theatre Three, 311 W. 43rd St. 3rd floor (9th/10th Aves) 212- 279-4200
10/11/01-11/04/01; opening 11/21//01
Tues-Fri at 8pm Sat at 3 and 8 pm, Sun at 3 and 7:30 pm-- $25. $10 Student Rush on day of performance.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based
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