New York | 1h 10m | Already closed

Before Your Very Eyes

From 17 critic and 23 member reviews
Members say: Thought-provoking, Ambitious, Clever, Absorbing, Original

About the show

The Public Theater and international avant-garde troupe Gob Squad present the US premiere about the lives of seven individuals living in fast forward. More…

UK and Berlin-based Gob Squad returns to the Public with the ambitious 'Before Your Very Eyes,' created over the course of the past two years with 9-14 year olds from around New York City. From behind the safety of one-way mirrors, the audience witnesses seven lives lived in fast forward, from angst-ridden teens to hunched geriatrics. As we adults try to stop the process of aging and preserve youth as long as we can, the children peer into the future and back at their recent past, as they prepare to leave childhood behind forever.


"'Before Your Very Eyes' is basically 70 minutes of watching kids play dress-up, but not the cutesy version that most adults would like to imagine. The Gob Squad's take on make-believe feels a lot more truthful. It's downright disarming in its honesty...While the show ostensibly depicts the very specific lifecycle of the upper middle-class Americans, it actually reveals how observant kids are of adult behavior. It may feel like we're watching them onstage, but they're actually watching us." Full Review

Time Out New York

"'Before' concerns itself with speed and time and death; it does so even before it asks the children to pretend to be teenagers or adults. Parts of this are heartbreaking...Gob Squad is poking fun at its own milieu here, and that self-critique fits poorly on these small shoulders. What fits better is exuberance and clarity, both of which are in full supply during the dance numbers and the video interviews." Full Review

NY Theatre Guide

"Definitely a good watch to share with your significant other or mother, but the content gets slightly graphic, inappropriate, suggestive, and vulgar at times – a big part of what makes it so fun. This is a must see for anyone who wonders about the present, future or past." Full Review

New York Theater

"Dress-up has never seemed more sophisticated than in 'Before Your Very Eyes,' the intriguing 70-minute theater piece at the Public Theater...While offering no especially fresh or profound insights into the aging process or life as it’s lived today, 'Before Your Very Eyes' is full of chaotic and kinetic business that occasionally scores as amusing or thought provoking. There’s at least one moment in each Age of Man that feels spot-on." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"More might have been made of the relationship between the children and the voice of the adult minder and it’s never clear if the characters the youngsters play are lives the children imagine...Throughout, the children are disarming in their enthusiasm and occasional awkwardness. The overarching effect is silly, tender and sad. Maybe that’s just like life. Maybe it isn’t. It’s still pretty wonderful to see." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"We can readily see ourselves through the eyes of these youngsters, recalling the different stages of our lives and it has great emotional impact. These youngsters, however, may find themselves better prepared as they’re living through life on fast-forward (70 minutes) knowing more about what ultimately awaits them." Full Review


"A mixture of joy, sorrow, laughter and tears is an almost assured response from the audience as seven child actors ages 9 to 14, pretend to see themselves maturing through progressive stages of life from the present to old age and death...The beauty of 'Before Your Very Eyes' is that we don't feel as if children are giving a performance." Full Review

Village Voice

"Gamely embodying ages not their own, they reveal how arbitrary our ideas about age really are... Here, performance becomes a time-lapse camera, transforming aging into action — until the end, when the cast leaps backward out of the mirrored walls and returns to inhabiting the ages they were before the show. Except not really: They, and we, are 90 minutes older." Full Review

Reviewing The Drama

"The live action on stage is interspersed with pre-recorded video of the children talking about their dreams and hopes, and asking their 'older' selves if they still dream and hope about the same things; if they are still afraid of the same things; if they've achieved their goals. Seeing the wonder in the children's eyes met with a loss of innocence, teen angst, adult cynicism, older adult resignation...It's truly affecting." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"If our kids are growing up so fast, looking at these seven children from across New York’s social and cultural fabric, is to want them to hold on to what makes childhood so exciting: optimism, possibility and dreams...'Before Your Very Eyes' is an invitation to not only not stop them, but to see them get where they want to go, even if it means putting blinders on our own fears, and resurrecting a little crazy optimism again, a little fearless energy, when childhood is long gone." Full Review

The New York Times

"'Before Your Very Eyes' is a downer with an upper of a cast. That contrast is pretty much the entire point of this ingenious but ultimately unsurprising theatrical essay... Moments throb with a palpable human pulse and, implicitly, our awareness that all human pulses eventually stop...In stressing the way time erases rather than embellishes, 'Before Your Very Eyes' digs itself into the special rut of classic Everyman plays." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"It would be an exaggeration to say I ever got lost in their game of dress-up, but during a couple of instances, I came close... If the human effects are undeniably good, and the performers a pleasure to watch, there's not enough of a structure to justify the effort that's gone into this. Almost a concept without an execution, 'Before Your Very Eyes' comes to rely on clichés more than it does the fresh thinking the setup portends." Full Review

As Her World Turns

"The visual impact of seeing these kids interact with their former selves is bound to serve an emotional wallop; it’s almost as though the whole project might have sprung from this premise...We see the kids age in front of us, wearing rebellious teenager clothes, then transition to 30-somethings, then 50-somethings, and finally octogenarians. It feels a little gimmicky at times. But I appreciate seeing how this group experiments with the boundaries of theater." Full Review


"'Before Your Very Eyes' never quite reveals a purpose for its existence. The kids are terrific and fun to watch, but while the 70 minute experimental study is reasonably entertaining, it's not especially enlightening." Full Review

Front Row Center

"Just as 'Boyhood' earned kudos for doing what Hollywood never does, 'Before Your Very Eyes' gets the same nod. No one does this in theater. So, when it works (again, moments), bravo! And when it doesn’t work (even at 70 minutes it got tedious) still bravo for innovation. If I were a high school drama teacher, I would hope to produce this wonderful piece at my school. If I were just a New Yorker looking for an interesting night out, I could do better." Full Review

Matt Trueman

for a previous production "The show is a minor-miracle, a marvel to behold. It almost needs a drum-roll. Over 90 minutes, these nine children will run the gamut of human existence, zipping through the aging process at warp speed and hurtling towards the grave...Cute young kids + life’s brief candle = coolly detached existential humour + inevitable lump in throat." Full Review

Fourthwall Magazine

for a previous production "The ambition of Gob Squad’s creation becomes clear as video of the children at earlier stages of their lives is projected onto screens, generating poignant moments as they each confront their younger selves. Together with playful interrogations of youth, aging and self-identity, Gob Squad attempt to nudge at even bigger concerns." Full Review

Absorbing, Clever, Enchanting, Thought-provoking, Must see

See it if you're interested in watching children age through their entire lives over the course of an hour and 15 minutes

Don't see it if you don't want to be faced with the idea of mortality, especially presented by young children

Absorbing, Original, Creative, Inventive, Profound

See it if you enjoy experimental theatre at its finest. The cast I saw were all astonishing, no mean feat from actors so young.

Don't see it if you do not like experimental theatre and do not like being moved and forced to think about your choices made in life.

Absorbing, Clever, Quirky, Thought-provoking, Original

See it if you like non-traditional narrative theater. refreshing contemporary theater experience

Don't see it if you prefer conventional theater with strictly linear story lines and formally scripted plays.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Original, Quirky

See it if you want a new experience in the theatre. It's crazy.

Don't see it if You don't want to watch kids die?

Clever, Great staging, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Refreshing

See it if you want to take a minute and have art help you look at the finer things in life. The things worth paying attention to.

Don't see it if Don't want to think about art. This play makes you think and it's going to raise questions.

Exquisite, Delightful, Great writing, Intense, Profound

See it if One who likes good production

Don't see it if You can't follow the plot

Ambitious, Clever, Original, Refreshing

See it if extremely inventive and surprising theater, void of cliches [kids playing grownups could be dangerous]. Experimental theater at its best.

Don't see it if you're expecting A Chorus Line

Absorbing, Ambitious, Clever, Exquisite, Edgy

See it if You enjoy experimental theatre. You are want your eyes to be opened. You aren't scared to leave the theater thinking darkly.

Don't see it if You don't enjoy experimental theater. You don't enjoy a strait show with no intermission.

Banal, Disappointing, Thought-provoking, Intense, Insipid

See it if Engaging cast

Don't see it if Depressing

Clever, Profound, Resonant, Quirky, Enchanting

See it if you like experimental work, you are a parent, you want to be reminded of the joy/mystery of life, you are a kid

Don't see it if you hate kids, you need a plot that is spelled out, really love realism

Ambitious, Edgy, Thought-provoking, Refreshing

See it if you want to see something innovative and experimental.

Don't see it if you want a clear plot. Don't see if you feel uncomfortable with children tackling challenging subject matter.

Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Resonant

See it if you enjoy children, and you enjoy big ideas about time and growing up

Don't see it if you don't enjoy experimental theatre

Absorbing, Ambitious, Original, Thought-provoking, Quirky

See it if you like being in touch with your humanity; you enjoy devised work/nontraditional theater experiences; want to see something different.

Don't see it if you want a linear plot; you don't care to watch an all-children cast; you don't want to think too much about the meaning of life.

Clever, Delightful, Banal, Thought-provoking, Fluffy

See it if you love kids. Watching the youngsters in this piece often borders on the sublime.

Don't see it if Overworked metaphors about life, aging, and death aren't your cup of tea.

Ambitious, Original, Slow, Great music

See it if you want a really unique theatrical experience.

Don't see it if you want an entertaining night out.

Quirky, Thought-provoking, Slow, Banal, Clever

See it if You love seeing children on stage

Don't see it if You need a clear plot

Absorbing, Great acting, Original, Intense, Disappointing

See it if Interesting concept, energetically presented by a young, engaging cast.

Don't see it if Ultimately depressing. I wondered what the point was.

Shallow, Amateurish, Indulgent, Plotless, Overlong

See it if You'd be satisfied seeing the staging of an okay idea presented with decent use of video but lacking anything else of interest

Don't see it if You expect time and money at The Public to deliver a fleshed-out performance instead of a "project" better suited to a fringe fest

Ambitious, Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating, Quirky

See it if you like watching talented preteens with a lot of energy

Don't see it if you like unusual concepts that hit.

Boring, Experimental, Disappointing, Overrated, Slow

See it if you like media integration in a performance, watching kids do nothing interesting for 70 mins, like shows that try too hard to be cool.

Don't see it if i pulled muscles from rolling my eyes so much...hopefully that tells you something.

Like watching a bad home movie

See it if you enjoy watching high-spirited young actors moving and acting spontaneously

Don't see it if you don't think good theater is provided by observing young actors in unstructured play while contemplating the mystery of death; huh?

During previews
Enchanting, Funny, Must see, Thought-provoking, Profound

See it if you enjoy a theatrical challenge.

Don't see it if You want a clear, linear story.

For a previous production
Must see, Great writing, Great staging, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if You love theater!

Don't see it if Small children with you

Cast & Creatives (4)