Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Robbie Schaefer, guitarist and songwriter for the band Eddie from Ohio, began with songs and stories about the bond between himself and his father and, with the help of director Eric Schaeffer, has created a 90-minute work (book, music, and lyrics) that blends dialogue and musical scenes with a concert-like staging. The actors spend most of the run time onstage; some of them play their own instruments, supported by a violinist, keyboardist, and drummer.
Rather than following a linear plot, Light Years wanders through the life experiences of Robbie, represented at three ages: John Sygar as a child, Luke Smith as a young adult, and Schaefer himself in the present. Bobby Smith gives another heart-melting performance as Robbie's father Konnie, a loving father who does his best to keep the pain of his own life away from his son.
The musical is built out of small moments, starting with Robbie as a small child, making music by banging on pans with a wooden spoon and later asking his father to buy him a guitar. Robbie learns about the world as his father takes jobs in India and Switzerland. In his teens, Robbie introduces his father to the constellations and the observation that the stars we see are so far away, they may have been dead for millions of years. Robbie sees the woman of his dreams (Natascia Diaz) from the stage as he performs. Robbie tries to balance his career as a touring musician with the realities of a wife and children. And, eventually, Robbie realizes that his father is getting old and slipping into dementia.
The director also created the scenic design in the MAX Theatre, which consists of a single door upstage center and a row of screens above the area where the musicians and actors perform. Chris Lee's lighting design emphasizes the theatrical with jolts of light from the rear of the stage, while Mark Costello and Zachary G. Borovay have created a video design that encompasses news footage, scene-setting images, and even some home movies.