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We Live by the Sea

From 18 critic and 142 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Intense, Relevant

About the show

Patch of Blue's devised production explores the life of an autistic girl as she connects with a boy who changes her world forever. A hit at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Part of 59E59's Brit's Off Broadway series. More…

'We Live By the Sea' tells the story of Katy, who lives on the coast with her sister Hannah and her imaginary dog, Paul Williams. Ostracized by the children at her school because of her differences, Katy is lonely and longs for someone to talk to. When she meets Ryan, a teenager from the city running away from his own problems, she recognizes something of herself in him, and starts to learn what it is to be a friend. The production features playful visual storytelling and a live electronic score.


“If, at this point, it sounds like Katy is an actual person, good, because she felt that way all throughout the remarkably engaging play ‘We Live By The Sea.’ As Katy, Alexandra Brain avoids all the acting shortcuts and, instead, gives a performance that is pure empathy. Whereas someone else may have been satisfied simply depicting the physical manifestations of Katy's mental condition, Brain beautifully achieves the much higher goal of humanizing Katy's autism.” Full Review

Woman Around Town

"The story is brilliant — hilarious and heartbreaking all at once — but in the small, intimate theater you’ll witness one incredibly courageous and truthful performance by young Alexandra Brain...The script is a scramble of overlapping lines, with characters talking over and around each other throughout. The performance and direction of it, however, looks so easy and so natural at times that of course it must have been incredibly difficult to get just right. But right it is, remarkably so." Full Review

Manhattan Digest

"Alexandra Simonet brings a subtle, emotional and empathetic performance as Hannah... All are skillfully directed and staged by Howarth, who uses the small space expertly to tell this tale...A gorgeous, moving story about loss and personal triumph. From start to finish, every little touch in this production is well conceived, from the effective and imaginative set all the way down to the postcard from Katy in the program." Full Review

The New York Times

"Creates an expansive world out of seemingly little...Brain's warmly empathetic performance never feels 'acty'...The other cast members are just as good in relatively more straightforward roles...Tight, imaginative staging...Throughout, the company maintains a sure sense of tone, playful and grave at the same time, and pulls off a cathartic ending that's neither cloying nor cheesy - though be warned that it is a five-hankie tear-jerker that may leave you a sobbing mess." Full Review


"It is an insightful portrayal of a teenager on the autism spectrum that shouldn't be missed. This is a show that both entertains and informs...The troupe of actors brings this well-crafted show to life with true authenticity...'We Live By The Sea' is a heartfelt show that will raise people's awareness of people on the autism spectrum and the struggles that are often faced by handicapped people and their families." Full Review

Epoch Times

"Tightly directed and boasting four strong performances...What elevates this story to something more than a tale about a person with a disability is that it allows the audience to see Katy both from the outside and from within...Howarth seamlessly juggles the production's elements for maximum impact and nothing comes across as over the top or clichéd...Intimate, insightful, and ultimately uplifting...Offers some simple yet powerful lessons about growth, change, and acceptance by others." Full Review

Front Row Center

"A captivating examination of an autistic girl’s struggles...Oceans are notoriously vast, which is a good thing because the sea is called upon here to support enormous metaphorical weight...Still, we buy into the conceit, thanks to strong acting all around and the wonderfully immersive world built by director Alex Howarth and his creative team. Ms. Brain is nothing less than ferocious." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"Brits Off Broadway at 59E59 is off to a strong start with this powerful play about autism...The stories Katy likes to tell to provide order to her experience are cleverly recreated with such simple props as an electric fan and a pair of desk lamps...My heart went out to Hannah, because Katy’s erratic behavior with its frequent outbursts of raw emotion was hard to endure for 90 minutes, let alone 24 hours a day...Much as I admired the play, I often found it painful to sit through." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"A well-executed work of devised theatre…Brain…plays Katy like an overgrown six-year-old...She squeals, fidgets, shakes her hands tremulously, holds them to her head as if to prevent it from exploding...She can be sad, she can be funny; with Katy, you never know what's coming…On the other hand, the piece seems overlong at 90 minutes. Brain offers a tour de force portrayal of Katy's mannerisms but, like me, you may eventually tire of them, no matter how well acted. But maybe that's the point." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"This isn't a tidy play, but it's a bracing one...In its best passages, 'We Live by the Sea' makes clear Hannah's deep devotion to Katy, as well as its terrible cost...'We Live by the Sea' is a company-created work, which may explain why it feels underwritten...Katy is a fiercely imagined character and Alexandra Brain realizes her down to the last detail...The rest of the cast performs with an appealing mix of candor and tact." Full Review

Time Out New York

"'We Live By the Sea' works best as a loving and empathetic portrait of a neurodivergent teen. Director Howarth's 15 years of experience as a drama therapist for people on the spectrum imbues the play with authenticity. The narrative, however, is less believable...The play flags whenever it shifts to Hannah and Ryan's points of view. Katy's special needs may be challenging, but her atypical perspective is what gives the show a specialness of its own." Full Review

A Younger Theatre

for a previous production "The modestly masterful storytelling is warmly delivered by intelligent performances. Beating loudly at its heart, Alex Brain–playing Katy–is breathtaking. It is rare to see such an enchanting example of autism depicted so sensitively…Sea-deep and honestly interpreted research renders 'We Live by the Sea' an informative and special immersion into the lives of those shaped by autism…This is my Fringe gem, a treasure that I will bury in the burning cockles of my heart." Full Review

British Theatre Guide

for a previous production "It's feel good and funny, honest and above all completely believable…Alex Brain’s performance in the central role is mesmerizing…'We Live by the Sea' is an outstanding piece of theatre with a big heart and carefully honed performances. I cried freely throughout as did the rest of the audience. It's rare for theatre to connect in such a way and Patch of Blue has created something very raw and beautiful." Full Review

The Stage (UK)

for a previous production "An inventive and well-judged piece…It feels like everything has been very carefully considered. Alex Howarth’s production is so light and tight that you can forgive it the occasional sidestep into fairy-lit whimsy...There are no easy answers or magic cures. The standard of performance is high all-round, but Alex Brain’s performance as Katy is incredible, sustained, rich and funny, her timing exact. Informative without being worthy, this a really appealing piece. Lovely stuff." Full Review

Glam Adelaide

for a previous production "Alex Brain gives a stellar performance as Katy, taking the audience along with her as she moves rapidly from laughter through sadness, frustration, anger, and at times back to laughter...We witness episodes of sensory overload – when Katy is subjected to music, loud speech and flashing lights and then on a car journey, which Katy does not enjoy, when Hannah inadvertently tells a lie regarding their direction...I was moved to tears by this performance and cannot recommend it too highly." Full Review

The Reviews Hub

for a previous production "The show is a well constructed, wonderfully conceived, and cleverly executed piece…There are elements of the piece that are underwhelming. The projection design fails to add significantly to the show, and certain elements of the writing...Despite this, the piece is a truly unique piece of theatre…The show manages to craft a truly credible central character, offering a window into living with autism...Coupled with fantastic performances, the show really is captivating." Full Review

Edinburgh Guide

for a previous production "Katy is on the autistic spectrum and finds it difficult to connect to people, but with stories, well that’s when she does some of her best and bravest thinking...Live music and video projections form a backdrop to the utterly credible central character. The other parts are less well rounded. Ryan’s back story and the ease with which he is accepted feels somewhat underdeveloped. A unique, inventive piece of theatre that is touching, heart-warming and enlightening." Full Review

The Australian

for a previous production "A richly detailed, gently presented study of autism as experienced by Katy, a high school student parented by her loving, often exasperated sister Hannah. Katy has an invisible friend and meets Ryan who has demons of his own. While candidly portraying the difficulties and isolating effects of autism, this play captures the intensity and originality of Katie’s experiences and is an excursion well worth taking." Full Review

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if You're interested in exploring the issue of autism in a creative and extremely empathetic prism.

Don't see it if You are Uncomfortable with someone who is obviously having a difficult time, you are initially put off you and end up totally cheering.

Absorbing, Dizzying, Intense, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if A good examination of three people's lives when one person is different from the mainstream.

Don't see it if You like a nice and easy show.

Ambitious, Absorbing, Enchanting

See it if The show was absolutely amazing. Everybody should see it.

Don't see it if No reason not to see it.

Great acting, Must see, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if you are looking for a really intimate play that will make you question the way you think about and treat others.

Don't see it if you don't want to cry in the theatre, it gets really emotional! Or, if you are looking for a big production, it is a very small scaled show.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Must see, Relevant

See it if Top notch acting, great live music from 90s, seaside visuals, Some scenes were very raw & intense but makes the all reason of a great play

Don't see it if You do not like simple decor, small cast. Other then that I cannot find any reason not to see it.

Also The writer seems to put a lot of efforts to express an autistic person... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Must see

See it if You like emotionally honest theater; the final scene was as good as anything I've ever seen on stage. Brutal and true and sort of amazing.

Don't see it if You work with autistic people professionally and are going to the theater as a break.

Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Must see, Thought-provoking

See it if I was captivated from start to finish; the acting is wonderful; Brain's acting is brilliant, touching and realistic. Bring tissues.

Don't see it if you are looking for escapist entertainment. This is a play that has something to say and it is said with heart, soul and love.

Great acting, Great writing, Masterful, Funny, Riveting

See it if You want to see Tony-caliber acting from a brilliant ensemble, painting a realistic portrait of life with autism. Funny and heart wrenching.

Don't see it if There is no reason to not see this masterful show. I can’t say enough about this remarkable play. Better than most shows on Broadway.

Absorbing, Great writing, Profound, Riveting, Resonant

See it if If you are open to a deeply moving theater experience.

Don't see it if You prefer conventional or light entertainment shows

Also Offers an insight into the potential for every person to experience jo... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Exquisite, Great acting, Profound

See it if You want drama which has a unique way of presenting a difficult problem such as autism. Emotionally devastating at times.

Don't see it if You cringe at drama about real human problems which does not rap things up nicely at the end.

Great acting, Intense, Absorbing, Touching

See it if Story tell about Katy growing and dealing with her life.

Don't see it if It may be hard to see if you have a love one how may look different or act different in the eyes of the world.

Also This play touchs hearts for anyone wants to fit in and no one want to ... Read more Read less

Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if you want to see a well-crafted story of what it's like to be on the autism spectrum. If you liked Curious Incident of the Dog in Nightime.

Don't see it if haze, flashing lights, or loud sounds trouble you - this stark portrayal can be unsettling to those easily affected.

Also What an amazing performance by the lead (not the person in the program... Read more Read less

Touching, Empathetic, Riveting, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if you seek a stirring, authentic, unconventional family drama by an inventive theater co, about truth, acceptance, compassion & responsibility

Don't see it if you aren't prepared to be moved, shaken, inspired & captivated by the story of an autistic girl & the support of family & friends around her

Absorbing, Quirky, Riveting

See it if You want to see something different, a tragic but ultimately heartwarming portrayal of autism told with a quirky nonlinear style.

Don't see it if You're uncomfortable with portrayals of autism or are bothered by flashing lights/loud sounds.

Great writing, Great acting, Masterful, Quirky, Thought-provoking

See it if you like well acted plays that make you really think what it would be like to have a disability or to be responsible for a disabled person

Don't see it if you want lightness and froth.This play is fun, entertaining & joyful.But it is also painful, sad & profound.I loved this play.Please see it.

Delightful, Great acting, Great writing, Quirky, Refreshing

See it if you enjoy black box productions, shows that honestly portray those on the autism spectrum, and small but mighty ensembles

Don't see it if you aren't interested in truthful portrayals of those with autism or you want to see a big-budget production

Also Pure theatre magic is happening in Theatre B at 59E59. The entire ense... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Must see, Great writing

See it if You want to experience something difference. I think the play was very well done overall especially the visuals, characters and music.

Don't see it if You want something light and expect a traditionally structured play.

Profoundly moving, Amazing performance

See it if You are sensitive to the human condition. You appreciate the art of less is more. You want to see an autistic actor that is a revelation.

Don't see it if You don't want to see a play about an autistic girl. You want a structured drama with a formulaic plot,scenery and a proscenium stage.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Relevant

See it if Realistic portrayal of autism is revealed in a story that brought me joy and touched my heart. The entire ensemble delivered extraordinary

Don't see it if If you are not able “to see the world through different eyes.”

Also performances that brought new meanings to social interactions.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Thought-provoking, Riveting

See it if you’d like to see a remarkably engaging play with raw emotions and powerful lessons to be learned especially of autistic struggles.

Don't see it if you’re sensitive to stories that deal with disabilities or if you don’t want see a play that takes you on an emotional rollercoaster.

Also This was a difficult play to watch as the tears started flowing from s... Read more Read less

Great acting, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to be entertained, upset and hopeful by a quartet of enthusiastic and talented young actors.

Don't see it if you are unwilling to experience the inner turmoil and frustrations of someone with autism who is struggling to live her life.

Relevant, Enchanting, Moving, Great acting, Imaginative

See it if Beautiful touching play that immerses you in the private world of an autistic girl and her family. A new friend brings hope and healing.

Don't see it if You would have a hard time with many autistic tantrums. You don’t enjoy plays that focus on character development and relationships.

Clever, Funny, Great acting, Great staging, Intelligent

See it if You're interested in characters with autism, or you just like shows with original staging.

Don't see it if If you really need a conventional plot for your theater experience.

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Intelligent

See it if for small jewel of intimate theater w/ outstanding performance by Brain. Laugh, Cry, learn-play not "preachy" or "soppy" Outstanding

Don't see it if don't like intense off-the -beaten track plays based on life of person w/ disabilities. Expect an evening of light hearted fun.

Also plat hits many w/ tough subject from a refreshing pers... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing, Masterful

See it if a wonderfully-acted story told in a unique and beautiful way appeals.

Don't see it if you have trouble understanding British accents or when there is overlapping speech/sounds. I missed some parts but very glad i went.

Cast & Creatives (10)