Monday, October 31, 2016

Off-Broadway Review: A Life

David Hyde Pierce. Photo: Joan Marcus

A Life
By Adam Bock
Directed by Anne Kauffman
Playwrights Horizons
through Nov. 27

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
A new play from gifted playwright Adam Bock (A Small Fire) starring David Hyde Pierce. Nate Martin (Peirce) has been trying to find meaning in his life, especially after a crisis of faith and being dumped by his boyfriend. He has turned to astrology, and while he finds it fascinating, it hasn't provided all the answers to his questions. Truth is hard to find, he tells us, and even more difficult to hold on to. He's tried group therapy to find a balance between passion, intimacy and companionship, but his fears of commitment and vulnerability make it difficult for him to find answers there either. Best friend Curtis (Brad Heberlee) offers some friendship and advice, but it might be too late.

What Are the Highlights?
Under Anne Kauffman's taut direction, we get a real look into the mind of Nate (one scene is mostly through our hearing his thoughts as he moves around his apartment) and then by witnessing how his life touches those around him, including Curtis, his sister, Lori (Lynne McCollough) and those who care for him at the end (Nedra McClyde and Marina Anderson round out the ensemble).

This is not a typical theater experience. Laura Jellinek's set makes unexpected changes to tell this extraordinarily sad, humorous and deeply personal story of the importance of one person's seemingly ordinary life. Mikhail Fiksel's sound design incorporates sound effects, such as neighbors yelling outside the apartment, which at first seem unimportant. We ignore them as minor annoyances with the same nonchalance that an emergency-services worker in one scene appears to be unaffected by having to transport another body. Later, however, they remind us that all of those lives count too and that we should never take anyone for granted.

What Are the Lowlights?
None. It's an engaging and touching 80 minutes without intermission. Pierce find the humanity in his character and pulls us in so we feel we have experiences some significant moments in the life of a friend.

More information:
A Life has been extended through Dec. 5 at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St., NYC. Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 2:30 and 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:30 7 pm. For Thanksgiving week (November 21-27), the performance schedule will be Monday and Tuesday at 7:30 pm, Wednesday at 2:30 pm, Friday at 7:30 pm, Saturday at 2:30 and 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2:30 and 7 pm. Tickets are $59-$99: www.phnyc.org; 212-279-4200.

Additional credits:
Costume Design by Jessica Pabst, lighting design by Matt Frey.

Adam Bock will moderate a symposium Saturday, Nov. 5 4 pm at the Peter Sharp Theatrer at Playwrights Horizons. Visit phnyc.org/symposium for tickets.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Astrological information
-- Language

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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