Review by Holli Harms
25 October 2016
Playwrights Horizons' Peter Jay Sharp Theater is a warm comfortable womb of a space. In this theater performers need not project to be heard, silence in this space can be thunderous and together the audience and actors, with the right material, can easily make something happen that approaches personal change, considers a shift, and creates a conversation that only live theatre can. Adam Bock’s new play A LIFE is that right material.
At the opening of A LIFE the lead character Nate (David Hyde Pierce) casually walks on stage and sits at his couch in his minimalist room and speaks directly to the audience.
His boyfriend, Mark, broke up with him and he’s decided to search both their astrological charts to see if he can figure out what happened. Nate has had a long string of breakups and personal mishaps and has spent most of his life looking for his personal truth – what he should be, where he should be and, WHY do these breakups keep happening?
He tried the Quaker meetings of silence to see if there might be something in the quiet, and though he loved the meetings they brought him no insight, just a nice feeling.
But finally with astrology, Nate thinks, he may have found his answers.
Astrology, tarot cards and the like are our ways to attempt to gain control of our lives. Yes, soon, very soon, as soon as the right star or planet is aligned, as soon as the right convergence transpires things will start to happen. Astrology we believe shows us our path and grants a hope and a promise of things to come. By charting out his life by the stars Nate believes he is living. But Astrology is really how Nate avoids his own insecurities and uncertainties. It removes him from being present in his situation.
Instead of making the phone call, taking the trip, living the life, he makes lists. Nate’s TO DO’s are for the future, for another time when things are all in order. For now he will worry about Mark, and consult the astrological charts, and long for when the future will become the now.
Meanwhile, life happens on its own. It is not a trajectory we can map out with charts and meetings and self-help books. It will happen and surprise and shake everything around us with or without charts.
And that is what happens to Nate – Life.
The writing in A LIFE is the beautiful turned up. It’s funny, poignant and honest. The acting and directing – breathless. Director Anne Kauffman understands the weight of quiet, of silence. David Hyde Pierce, who is one of our theatrical treasures, and the rest of this outstanding cast are courageous in their ability to simply be – be there in front of us with all their humanity.
In the playbill, playwright, Adam Bock explains that his parents died four years ago, seven weeks apart, and with their sudden passing he was lost and in shock – searching for answers to why things happen so suddenly, how we change when they do, and how we can find a new way of being.
"Mr. Pierce, as the many fans of 'Frasier' and his recent stage performances will know, is an actor of great skill and effortless affability. He’s usually good company, even when his material is less than first rate. But here’s he’s just… company."
Charles Isherwood for New York Times
"The play is exquisite in detail but cosmic in theme; it has a Thornton Wilder soul."
Adam Feldman for Time Out New York
"Fans of Pierce will want to see this anyhow, while audience members who mull over the intended message may have to conclude that it remains as unknowable as the meaning of life."
Jennifer Farrar for Associated Press
"David Hyde Pierce is mesmerizing in this deeply unsettling, surprising play."
Frank Scheck for Hollywood Reporter
"David Hyde Pierce is giving a quietly devastating performance at Playwrights Horizons in 'A Life,' Adam Bock’s meditative one-act play about the meaning and implicit value of a human life."
Marilyn Stasio for Variety
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