Members say: Great acting, Thought-provoking, Absorbing, Ambitious, Great staging

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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Nate Martin is hopelessly single. When his most recent breakup—another in a lifelong string of ill-fated matches—casts him into a funk, he turns to the only source of wisdom he trusts: the stars. Poring over astrological charts, he obsessively questions his past and his place in the cosmos. In this disarming new play, the answer Nate receives, when it comes, is shockingly obvious—and totally unpredictable.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

The New York Times

"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." Full Review


"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." Full Review


"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." Full Review


"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." Full Review

Time Out New York

"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." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"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." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"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." Full Review

New Yorker

"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." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"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." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"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." Full Review

New York Theater

"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." Full Review

Broadway Blog

"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." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"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." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"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." Full Review

New York Daily News

"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." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"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." Full Review


"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." Full Review

Front Row Center

"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." Full Review


"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." Full Review

Bob's Theater Blog

"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." Full Review

The Wrap

"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." Full Review


"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?" Full Review

The Associated Press

"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." Full Review


"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." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

"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." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Disappointing, Unconventional

See it if existentialist play with a unique perspective

Don't see it if unconventional

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Profound, Great staging

See it if you want an evening with David Hyde Pierce discussing life, death & the meaningful/meaninglessness of both. Pathos, humor, charm, delight.

Don't see it if you done live unconventional storytelling, sing the inner workings of a morgue, albeit delivered in a light & funny tone.

Clever, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Great staging

See it if you like shows that are intimate. The staging was quite amazing.

Don't see it if you feel uncomfortable about the idea of death.

Ambitious, Disjointed, Conceptual

See it if Don't mind a non-straightforward plot or objective. Are scared of dying alone.

Don't see it if Want a character to earn your affection, and for a reason. Looking for more than a mourning son's ruminations on mortality.

Clever, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Great set, Bizarre

See it if you liked The Flick or a similar real-time like play. I won't spoil anything, but the set is INCREDIBLE.

Don't see it if you're bored by slow-moving dramas that have ambiguous meanings/endings.

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

Absorbing, Clever, Intense, Thought-provoking, Great writing

See it if Unfortunately the show ended today, 12/4/16. If it comes back in another venue see it for David Hyde Pierce's wonderful performance.

Don't see it if N/A

Great acting, Intense, Quirky, Resonant, Great staging

See it if To see David Hyde Pierce. He was very good. It was interesting but many would not like it.

Don't see it if I would not really recommend this play to anyone. the first part of the play is charming, the second part is totally weird and disturbing

Also Weird and disturbing could be fine, but the second half was also extre... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Clever, Quirky, Slow, Entertaining

See it if you are a fan of David Hyde Pierce. His monologue ranging from mundane to astrological pathos is a delight.

Don't see it if you are impatient with concepts gesturing at unsettling juxtapositions in life without sufficient fleshing out to be truly moving.

Sad, Intelligent, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if you love David Hyde Pierce.

Don't see it if you don't like dealing with mortality in your entertainment.

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

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".

A slow slice of a lonely life & death

See it if you like David Hyde Pierce. He's very natural and does whatever can be done with the role, but the play's joys are subtle.

Don't see it if you don't want to deal with death or afterlife; you need action to enjoy a play.

Absorbing, Masterful, Quirky, Haunting, Fantastic set

See it if You have 90 minutes to spare for the most intense use of that time. This play is still resounded within me, and there is something for you.

Don't see it if You need everything to tie up at the end in a logical bow, or if you can't commit the mental energy for this provocative piece.

Also Admittedly, David Hyde Pierce, who is so likeable it should be illegal... Read more Read less

Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Unusual

See it if You are looking for a window into mortality with excellent performances.

Don't see it if You are looking for glitzy Broadway staging.

Ambitious, Intense, Thought-provoking, Overrated, Slow

See it if You like theater that challenges you and enjoy David Hyde Pierce. His performance is intense and well done. Brad Heberlee is great too.

Don't see it if You need a fast moving plot. This play often felt incredibly slow.

Funny, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Profound, Great staging

See it if you're a David Hyde Pierce fan (fantastic performance!), a single urbanite, and you appreciate Jeckyl&Hyde-like plot twists.

Don't see it if you want something light and fluffy -- the Jeckyl portion is hysterical but the Hyde portion is heartbreaking.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting

See it if You can see the big picture in the mundane

Don't see it if You expect titilation

Great acting, Profound, Quirky

See it if You like Absorbing though odd in parts. Low key and simply presented

Don't see it if You want to enjoy a "no brainer" fluff play

Clever, Great acting, Monologue by d.h pierce is a winner

See it if you enjoy a magnificent David Hyde Pierce for 25 minutes or so.

Don't see it if you do not have Mr Pierce for the rest of the show. Maybe this is an attempt (perhaps) to define the meaning of life.

Original, Disappointing, Well-acted, Non-emotional

See it if you like David Hyde Pierce (briefly). I wanted to feel more, but maybe that was the point. Interesting viewpoint attempt.

Don't see it if you like easy stories. You will need to think a bit about this one.

Funny, Absorbing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Subtle

See it if you enjoy slow plays that give you time to think about (and savor) what's happening.

Don't see it if you dislike plays with minimal action, even if the scarcity of action is critical to the play's theme.

Great acting, Profound, Resonant, Great writing, Heart-wrenching

See it if You like plays that don't follow a classic structure and tell you what to think; great acting and writing; great sound & set design.

Don't see it if You're impatient and don't like sudden shifts in plot and tone.

Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Great staging

See it if You like a smart meditation on life and colliding storylines, you want to see David Hyde Pierce at height of his game

Don't see it if You fear death or recently experienced a death (spoiler alert) - this would be excruciating

Ambitious, Edgy, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Profound

See it if You can allow a seemingly banal but brilliantly delivered monologue jolt you into consideration of our common existential plight. DHP rocks

Don't see it if You resist being set up and led into territory that many would prefer to avoid, you won't appreciate the meditative pace, the great staging.

Also This is not an easy play to enjoy in the moment despite the great acti... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Surprising

See it if you want something unexpected, enjoy stories of gay men maneuvering through NYC, fan of David Hyde Pierce, like ballsy staging and plot

Don't see it if you've had it with stories of gay men, don't like unexpected twists that come earlier than expected, saddened by scenes of abject loneliness

Cast & Creatives (12)