Closed 1h 20m
A Life
Midtown W
76

A Life NYC Reviews and Tickets

76%
(136 Reviews)
Positive
81%
Mixed
13%
Negative
6%
Members say
Great acting, Thought-provoking, Absorbing, Ambitious, Quirky

About the Show

Playwrights Horizons presents Adam Bock's new play about a man—played by Emmy and Tony winner David Hyde Pierce—who turns to astrology after heartbreak.

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Member Reviews (136)

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91
Moving, Absorbing, Resonant, Thought-provoking, Great acting

See it if you like quirky shows that really move you, touch you in a subtle quiet way that is beautiful and a little unsettling at the same time.

Don't see it if you need a straightforward plot. At one point I was lightly crying because I was so moved and I heard the person behind say "This is weird".

40
Banal, Disappointing, Slow, Meaningless

See it if you want to see David Hyde Pierce deliver a potent opening monologue about the complexities of being an aging, single gay man in Manhattan.

Don't see it if you seek any meaning from this meandering, dull nothingburger. Spoiler alert: Life has no meaning. Here today, gone tomorrow. Live for today

Critic Reviews (38)

October 24th, 2016

"Am I boring you? Sorry, but don’t blame me, I’m just trying to be an honest reporter...Mr. Pierce is usually good company, even when his material is less than first rate. But here’s he’s just…company...The play has been directed with minimal fuss by Ms. Kauffman, a specialist in adventurous theater, but it falls between the schools of realism and what might be called theatrical existentialism...While you can scan the play’s surface for larger meanings, watching it isn’t particularly rewarding."
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October 24th, 2016

"The play is exquisite in detail but cosmic in theme; it has a Thornton Wilder soul...Directed by Anne Kauffman with a superb ear for naturalism. Sympathetic and unsentimental, the play offers a wise, quietly devastating perspective on the stuff we carry and leave behind. You may find yourself trembling as you stumble out of Playwrights Horizons and into the night, where life goes on and has been going on without you."
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October 24th, 2016

"It’s hard to imagine anyone who could put this material over better than Pierce; he works every self-cancelling half-sentence and errant thought pattern into a stage naturalism so airtight it approaches the surreal...Bock’s dialogue captures the uncanny and sometimes hilarious weirdness of real speech..Balancing such disparate and volatile elements asks a lot of a director, and Anne Kauffman, in staging 'A Life,' demonstrates nerves of steel."
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November 7th, 2016

"There’s nothing strained about Bock’s new play...David Hyde Pierce, giving one of those performances that take you over, moment by sensitively explicated moment...The director, Anne Kauffman, doesn’t try to make the script more than it is; she helps to reveal the subtleties and the weirdness at its heart. Hyde Pierce and the rest of the cast are ideal collaborators for what Bock and Kauffman want to convey."
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October 24th, 2016

"To reveal anything more would be to spoil the heartrending surprises of this deeply unsettling drama, which will linger long in your mind...Some will find it profoundly moving, others gimmicky...Director Anne Kaufman doesn't shy away from the play's daunting aspects...'A Life' is a little rough-hewn, both in the writing, which sometimes feels underdeveloped, and its technical aspects...But these are mere quibbles about a drama whose simple truths will leave you ineffably shattered."
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October 24th, 2016

"David Hyde Pierce is giving a quietly devastating performance in 'A Life,' Adam Bock’s meditative one-act play about the meaning and implicit value of a human life...Bock is scrupulous in the language he uses to reveal Nate’s indecisive character...Director Kauffman stages those events that intrude on his placid existence with a sense of high drama and implacable finality. For his part, Pierce keeps his distance and lets her do what has to be done. It’s a rewarding collaboration all around."
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October 24th, 2016

"David Hyde Pierce gives an amusing and endearing performance as gay, middle-aged Nate, who’s still trying to get his bearings after a breakup in Adam Brock’s engaging and sometimes unnerving new drama. The modest work goes places that you probably won’t see coming. The same goes for the seemingly everyday set in Anne Kauffman’s staging."
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October 24th, 2016

"Bock leans heavily on the element of surprise, which director Kauffman successfully exploits to the fullest. She lulls us into a false sense of complacency before completely blindsiding us...Pierce gives one of the most physically committed performances I've ever witnessed onstage...Bock's commitment to soul-shaking naturalism is reminiscent of Émile Zola at his darkest, conveying a vision of life that is so frightening precisely because we know it to be completely truthful."
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October 25th, 2016

"We live, we die and some people believe what happens in between is written in the stars is all you might get out of this 85-minute meditation...While the cast is perfectly fine and the dialogue is sometimes interesting and/or amusing, the play never seems set on a purpose beyond its simple, familiar themes. 'A Life' would be best recommended to middle-aged male actors looking for good monologue material."
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October 28th, 2016

"A deeply affecting mediation on the fleeting nature of life, love, and human happiness...Kauffman's direction has much to do with confidently steering the play's stunning shifts in tone...Even after 'A Life' turns in a definitively macabre direction it retains the oddball humor of the early scenes. At the same time, the play grows deeper and more moving, right up to the final abrupt white-out that shows how, even at the very last second, Bock still has shocks to impart."
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October 24th, 2016

"Kauffman's orchestration of all this is truly arresting...It's perhaps emblematic of the problems with 'A Life' that Hyde Pierce's performance eventually becomes immaterial to the proceedings...If there's no arguing with the theatrical execution from any quarter, it doesn't add up to much. For all the misdirection and filigree he deploys so expertly, Bock is simply taking a snapshot with a lengthy exposure, and that's not an adequate substitute for actual content."
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October 25th, 2016

"Bock presents an expertly conceived take on the milieu of contemporary life and upends it with breathtaking and emotionally charged revelations. Bock’s dialogue is authentically straightforward and his characters all have a rich sense of reality...Kauffman’s staging perfectly renders the ordinary aspects that are depicted with measured pacing, real-life movements and sparkling performances. Kauffman’s realization of the play’s turning point is a coup de théâtre...A powerful experience."
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October 24th, 2016

"'A Life,' so very aptly named, looks at the immense and complex as well as the small and banal. This life could be yours or mine – and it’s both exquisitely precious and cosmically inconsequential. Bock has constructed a miracle of a mirror that touches the everyman in all of us...Anne Kauffman’s direction is crisp and smart. Kauffman keeps the action moving at a pace that’s active without being frenetic."
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October 24th, 2016

"Mr. Hyde Pierce's Nate is such a vivid and well defined character and the two scenes we see him in are such an entertaining mix of Seinfeldian self-absorption and poignancy, that it's hard to sustain interest once he's no longer actively involved...While I'm not a great fan of actors coming on stage and making us their confidantes, Hyde Pierce uses his solo stint effectively and vividly...'A Life' somehow left me just a bit too let down and unsatisfied."
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October 25th, 2016

"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."
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October 24th, 2016

"It’s as if we are turning the pages of a storybook, much like the glorious set design, flipping from the minutiae of one moment to another. It’s wildly engaging and deeply touching. Everyone in the cast gives us the purity of a life being lived. Pierce is simply outstanding pulling us in, as is Heberlee...I give a great deal of credit to the playwright Bock for crafting such a marvelous and unique story, and presenting it to us with such a surprising and creative vantage point."
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October 25th, 2016

"At first, it seems like 'A Life' is going to be that snapshot of Nate’s life, from chart—birth—to now. The play is really after something both deeper and broader...It sneaks up on you with those questions, cleverly leading you down a sunlit garden path until it suddenly drops you in deep woods, so it never feels ponderous or self-consciously philosophical...It takes you someplace dark, sometimes even bleak, but always filled with compassion for and wonder at the arc of a human existence."
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October 24th, 2016

"I would have loved for 'A Life' to have been a play more worthy of attention leading up to the abrupt change in perspective...But all (or most) is forgiven by the end...Anne Kauffman's precise and pointed direction of 'A Life' is aided immeasurably by her design team...The supporting cast is spot-on. But it’s the charming, credible, comical and ultimately chilling performance of David Hyde Pierce that makes 'A Life' memorable."
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November 1st, 2016

"Anne Kauffman’s staging of Adam Bock’s ‘A Life’ is far more elaborate than one might expect for such an otherwise slight play...The ‘life’ of the title belongs to Nate Martin, a 54-year-old proofreader—gay, lonely, and depressed—played with naturalistic honesty by the always engaging, perfectly cast David Hyde Pierce...Nate experiences a totally unexpected game-changer I can’t reveal...From this point on, ‘A Life,’ for all its satirical and emotional highlights, is anticlimactic."
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C
October 24th, 2016

"More than a mere stunt, this surprising 85-minute piece also makes us think seriously about the importance of love, friends, luck, and time...Some viewers will find the work more infuriating than enlightening, or perhaps even more tedious than involving. Still, few can argue that thanks to Pierce’s singular gifts as an actor, Nate comes off as someone familiar to many of us...and someone about whom we manage to care about. That’s even more impressive than shocking an audience, isn’t it?"
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October 24th, 2016

"If Adam Bock’s 'A Life' didn’t have David Hyde Pierce, the play would be a snooze fest...Director Anne Kauffman did not help this thin, measly script...The biggest problem here is the characters' lives do not ask us to care. They are mundane, as if time is laborious and not fleeting. Pondering life’s meaning takes giving a hundred percent of oneself to the journey. Those who live do not have time to ponder."
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B
October 24th, 2016

"Adam Bock’s bold new play at Playwrights Horizons defied my expectations. Even the scenic design turned out to be surprising...It is bracing in its conception, but likely to be disturbing for single people living alone in New York...Director Anne Kauffman has wisely chosen to let the play breathe without rushing through difficult moments. Even though I found it unnerving, I was glad to experience it."
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October 24th, 2016

"One shudders to wonder what 'A Life' would be like without David Hyde Pierce...Whatever Playwrights saw in 'A Life,' alas, doesn’t come through to this playgoer. We sit there amused for the first section...The rest is altogether baffling. Pierce is for the duration asked to give a performance quite unlike any we’ve seen before...Anne Kauffman does a good job of staging the thing, although if she attempted to direct the playwright towards something more decipherable it didn’t work."
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October 24th, 2016

"It’s a remarkable achievement in the theater, and one so peculiar that you probably won’t be able to recall any other quite like it...Pierce is such an engaging performer that we never ask why he’s talking to us...Anne Kauffman’s direction and her fine use of Laura Jellinek’s set, which achieves more spectacular metamorphoses than a busy caterpillar, succeeds."
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October 24th, 2016

"With a head that always reminds me of a bright light bulb, Hyde Pierce projects an enormously likable skepticism and a willingness to let audiences in to watch his characters try to untangle the contradictions...This preoccupation with one’s own dramas is extended through the haunting 85-minute play on Laura Jellinek’s surprising sets. Director Anne Kauffman, who explored comparably unsettling subjects last season, takes us simply and effortlessly into the unthinkable."
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October 26th, 2016

"Brutally simple and staggering...Director Anne Kauffman’s production, with the help of ingenious scenic design by Laura Jellinek, cracks open like an egg, revealing a story we thought might fit easily in our palms to be something altogether more profound and messy and devastating. Pierce is a consummate performer; the grace and charm he brings to the production form the force of its emotional punch. The rest of the ensemble is top-notch as well."
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October 25th, 2016

"Because Nate is played by David Hyde Pierce, the most personable actor in the world, his quiet, low-key recital is compelling...Directed with a gift for eeriness by Anne Kauffman...I'm not positive about Bock's point, but I'd guess he's saying that we're sometimes totally unaware of how others regard us, and we can have a significant impact without realizing it. 'A Life' takes a tortuous route to make that case, but you can't say the journey is boring."
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October 26th, 2016

"Though intermittently witty, this is pretty thin stuff, so after about 45 minutes Bock chucks in a shocking though not implausible twist. Then comes one of the lengthiest and most pointless scene changes I have ever witnessed...Pierce does his best with this material, occasionally conjuring a poignant sense of isolation and muted despair...But there’s no escaping the inadequacies of Bock’s text, which seems to run out of ideas all too quickly."
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October 24th, 2016

"Features an unsettling performance by theater mainstay David Hyde Pierce, as an everyman gay New Yorker in his mid-50s...Single (again) and with a caring social circle, Pierce’s Nate Martin, an ad agency proofreader, might well have been a stand-in for half the audience members at the recent performance I attended. He’s a guy like us. That’s relevant, given the startling direction 'A Life' veers off in, halfway through."
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October 25th, 2016

"In the half-hour opener, Hyde Pierce is able to connect deftly to his audience with the details of Nate’s past. Obviously famous from his work on television, Hyde Pierce is a consummately skilled stage actor as well. He has a wry comic delivery, sometimes self-deprecating, sometimes bewildered...Every moment feels lived in and true...It’s a graceful and powerful ending to a simple story, brilliantly staged and presented."
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October 31st, 2016

"A quietly powerful drama...Pierce is excellent, taking Bock’s words and bringing the character completely to life. He shows Nate to be a not-all-that-interesting man, but one filled with feelings, and hopes that are instantly recognizable and identifiable to everyone. Credit also goes to director Anne Kauffman, who guides the piece with a sure hand, never allowing things to become overtly maudlin or comical. In this way, she makes sure the audience never forgets the humanity in the situation."
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October 31st, 2016

"Under Anne Kauffman's taut direction, we get a real look into the mind of Nate...This is not a typical theater experience. The set makes unexpected changes to tell this extraordinarily sad, humorous and deeply personal story of the importance of one person's seemingly ordinary life...It's an engaging and touching 80 minutes...Pierce finds the humanity in his character and pulls us in so we feel we have experienced some significant moments in the life of a friend."
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October 24th, 2016

"In 'A Life,' Pierce proves worthy of his Tony, fully inhabiting a real person. It's a touching and sensitive portrayal, one that instantly hooked me, and made me care deeply about Nate...Layers and insights are revealed in time (thanks to director Anne Kauffman and scenic designer Laura Jellinek), and I savored Bock's Annie Baker–like silences and extended moments of stillness, of seemingly nothing happening on stage."
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October 24th, 2016

"If you want to be puzzled by a play, look no farther than Adam Bock's 'A Life,' which begins strongly but then peters out. Despite an affecting performance by Tony- and Emmy-Award winner David Hyde Pierce, the play is disappointing...The limits of time, life's elusive meaning, inevitable mortality — Bock incorporates these themes without particularly illuminating them."
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October 30th, 2016

"For anybody who hasn’t heard that life can be a) lonely b) meaningless c) boring, 'A Life' is for you...I suspect that the play wants to ennoble the ordinariness and make it profound, but the effect was more to annoy, especially with the cheap, easy laughs about gay men sitting on a park bench admiring joggers’ muscles or a multi-page to-do list... At a run time of 85 minutes, this seemed to take a lifetime."
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October 24th, 2016

"You'll be riveted to your seat, anxious to find out what happens next...In the central role of Nate, the always delightful Pierce once again proves his deft stage chops as he tears down the fourth wall by addressing the audience directly, as though we're a bystander to the action of his life...Tickets are already scarce for this short but impactful play. Catch it now, before it closes."
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November 1st, 2016

"It’s a tribute to David Hyde Pierce's talent and timing that he can hold our attention for as long as he does. Bock engages the audience, although perhaps engage is too strong a word, involves the audience...Anne Kaufman’s direction cannot keep the pace on this slow-moving 85 minutes fast enough to keep the drama from sagging under its own weight."
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October 4th, 2016

"A powerful, humbling new play...Mr. Bock explores life through a lonely, gay, introverted, quirky, and obsessive character, Nate Martin...A touching, honest, and sad first scene; a shocking next turn of events with a dash of today's culture of inappropriateness thrown in just to make you shrug your shoulders...Perfectly placed and such great acting around the uncomfortable nature of the whole affair."
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