We're Only Alive for a Short Amount of Time
Closed 1h 25m
We're Only Alive for a Short Amount of Time
81

We're Only Alive for a Short Amount of Time NYC Reviews and Tickets

81%
(86 Reviews)
Positive
92%
Mixed
6%
Negative
2%
Members say
Absorbing, Intense, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Great writing

About the Show

Lortel Award-winning writer/performer David Cale ("Harry Clarke") returns to The Public in his musical memoir of hope, family, and transcendence. 


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Member Reviews (86)

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84
Memorable, Engrossing, Touching, Haunting, Riveting

See it if you want immersion in theater that's funny, moving, tragic, tender, harsh. Personal tragedy becomes art. Triumph of writing/acting. Gr band

Don't see it if you want a gr singer (Cale isn't) or gr lyrics (soft rhymes/repetition). Ending is abrupt. But the piece envelops you...kidnaps you. Read more

85
Quirky, Lyrical, Versatile, Intense, Inspiring

See it if Inspiring solo autobio, overcoming horrific dysfunctional family. Many touching moments. Beautiful musical accompaniment. Full of feeling.

Don't see it if His vocals are not the strongest, but I enjoyed their creativity. His passion borders on mania, which can be a lot to take.

Critic Reviews (21)

The New York Times
June 27th, 2019

"Lands in the gap between drama and anecdote. It doesn’t help that Mr. Cale is often more compelling when playing other people than when playing himself...Under Mr. Falls’s delicate direction, Mr. Cale makes complicated creatures of them all...The variety of colors Mr. Cale is able to wring out of his voice as he sketches them in song is remarkable. Yet as David Egleton turns into David Cale and the story rushes into the present, the tension inevitably slackens."
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Time Out New York
June 27th, 2019

"David Cale gets harrowingly personal in the musical memoir We're Only Alive for a Short Amount of Time (⭐⭐⭐)"
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New York Magazine / Vulture
June 27th, 2019

"Cale has a voice that warbles, strains, flutters, cracks, and soars. He’s not going for flawless or classical or even consistently beautiful. What he’s got is character — a depth and range of expression and a life force that pours out of him like the frothing mouth of a river...Cale’s play isn’t a tragedy, though — it’s a kind of passage. It’s unblinking and curious, vulnerable and open-hearted without being soppy."
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The Hollywood Reporter
June 27th, 2019

"The unprepossessing, balding Cale is no great shakes as a singer, and the songs feel more like musical fragments than fully formed numbers. But the score, coupled with Cale's soulful, impassioned delivery, casts a quiet spell, enhanced by the gorgeous chamber music arrangements played by musicians seen only in shadow. Even when the proceedings turn markedly dark, the writer-performer invests them with a humor and humanity that make his individual story seem universal."
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Theatermania
June 27th, 2019

"'We're Only Alive for a Short Amount of Time' unexpectedly becomes an exorcism of pent-up human emotion, which Cale unpeels with the exactness of a forensic analyst. It is a brutal, honest look at what makes and unmakes a family, and reminds us why we should value the time that we have, since we never know how short it's going to be."
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BroadwayWorld
July 2nd, 2019

"David Cale's Survival Song, WE'RE ONLY ALIVE FOR A SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME"
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Lighting & Sound America
June 28th, 2019

"David Cale's new piece at the Public is his most personal, and also his gutsiest. In solo works written for himself and others, he has conjured a universe of richly imagined characters; here he turns his sights on himself and the members of his immediate family, who provide him with some hair-raising material."
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Talkin' Broadway
June 27th, 2019

"A tale that is entangled in the brambles of a troubled childhood is soaked in so much treacly romanticism that it loses its power to disturb an audience, even if it continues to haunt its teller...Cale quietly and with touches of humor and song fills us in with the broad outlines of his childhood...After a while, however, the straightforward narrative segues into a series of monologues in which Cale takes on the personae of his mother, his father, his grandfather, and his brother."
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New York Stage Review
June 27th, 2019

"Cale has a serene, good-humored demeanor that instantly bonds him with the audience...though the songs (Matthew Dean Marsh cowrote the music) aren’t your traditional toe-tapping–style showtunes, I can still recall the slightly haunting 'Canada Geese,' which Cale sings a cappella to start the show...As gifted as Cale is, as a performer and writer, 'We’re Only Alive’s' greatest asset may be director Robert Falls’ beautifully uncomplicated production."
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New York Stage Review
June 27th, 2019

"A beautiful, moving, and ultimately deeply engaging one-man biomusical...Cale is a droll storyteller, and his songs are pretty and haunting. It’s a cliché that characters in musicals break into song when mere words are insufficient, and it’s never seemed more true than in 'We’re Only Alive'...This is Cale’s story, and his accomplishment. But the staging makes it so much more."
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Front Mezz Junkies
July 16th, 2019

"One wants to soar alongside those musically envisioned Canadian Geese, flying so high above the stage...as told by the gifted writer and performer, David Cale...Cale finds his voice, shaky but true, innocent and engaging, to tell his personal tale of survival.”
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Exeunt Magazine
June 28th, 2019

"The play has same kind of tenderness of when Cale was cradling a baby bird in his hands, breathing life into the infant who otherwise might not survive."
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New York Theater
June 27th, 2019

"Simple, unfussy, occasionally awkward, more often delightful, ultimately stirring. But it is also truly disturbing. It is David Cale’s first theater piece that reveals the central trauma of his life, which occurred when he was a teenager...Cale presents the members of his family from their point of view, and presents even some of their vile behavior with the kind of perspective, and compassion, that is the mark of an accomplished artist."
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C
June 27th, 2019

"One can't help but be surprised at how cheerfully (or sometimes just dispassionately) Cale relates this tale of his extremely unhappy and dysfunctional childhood in working-class England. But ultimately what you'll most marvel at after 90 minutes is that Cale is still standing - both physically and metaphorically - having survived something beyond horrific: the murder of his mother by his own father."
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Gotham Playgoer
June 27th, 2019

"Without any change of costume, Cale convincingly transforms into each family member. Despite the sensational nature of some of the material, Cale, rather remarkably, maintains his calm demeanor. He is a masterful storyteller. His songs impressed me less; they sometimes did not seem to arise organically from the moment and the lyrics were often annoyingly repetitive."
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The Wrap
June 27th, 2019

"If only Crudup or, better yet, Jake Gyllenhaal (because he can sing) were playing David Engleton in Cale’s new one-person autobiographical musical...He gives himself big arias in 'Alive,' and there’s a stark rawness on display that some may find theatrically authentic. It may remind others of seeing a ballet where nobody on stage has been to class in months...Cale is far more engaging as a writer and performer when he’s using his nightmares to create other characters, other situations."
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Chicago Tribune
September 25th, 2018
For a previous production

“A deeply personal, indisputably courageous, frequently shocking and deeply moving autobiographical show...It’s not the best title...And there are some narrative gaps in a piece that could not possibly be performed by anyone else. It is structured so that its legitimacy as an artwork is wholly dependent on the long nightmare described therein being the actual truth of the man standing before you on a stage...Not just...a story of survival but of striving to transcend.”
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Theatermania
September 27th, 2018
For a previous production

“Cale’s characterizations are understated but unmistakable...There is no artifice in ‘We're Only Alive for a Short Amount of Time’. Both Cale's writing and his performance are relentlessly sincere, un-cushioned by irony or self-consciousness...The original music is as heartfelt and revealing as the story itself...Cale is no crooner, but his voice aches with emotion. The story he tells...is heartbreaking in its honesty.”
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BroadwayWorld
September 26th, 2018
For a previous production

“It's not uncommon for artists to create beauty from the pain of their own pasts, but few do it as bravely and poignantly as Cale...This...show packs an emotional punch in the most understated of ways...With a conversational, self-deprecating tone, punctuated with dry British wit, he establishes a natural connection with the audience...The words are poetic and reflect his decades of experience as a singer-songwriter...This musical memoir is ultimately a message of hope.”
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Chicago Reader
October 3rd, 2018
For a previous production

“There's a stick-figure quality to the show in Robert Falls's staging, like a picture book drawn by a child. Despite the presence of a sophisticated six-piece band, Cale's songs stay simple; in fact they come across as the same song given a dozen iterations. Cale himself projects an artless physicality, at once goofy and solemn, especially when he sticks out his hands to approximate flying. Maybe 'We're Only Alive' is better understood as a reliving than a memoir. "
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Stage and Cinema
September 25th, 2018
For a previous production

“A world premiere that’s a bittersweet valedictory for a nightmare childhood...The gay performer’s narrative/song cycle delivers a showbiz exorcism for a a trauma too terrible to be divulged...There’s no questioning the bedrock sincerity or anguished immediacy of Cale’s autobiographical cantata...Cale’s painfully intimate work seems swallowed up on the large stage. But that’s its only drawback...Cale’s self-muted outpouring is a triumph of restraint amid extremity.”
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