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A Life
Photograph: Joan MarcusDavid Hyde Pierce

Theater review: Five stars for David Hyde Pierce in Adam Bock's beautifully clear-eyed A Life

Adam Feldman
Written by
Adam Feldman

A serially single gay copy editor in his mid-fifties, Nate struggles with intimacy, but the deeply endearing David Hyde Pierce, who plays him, does not. For the first 25 minutes of Adam Bock’s gorgeous and unsettling A Life, Pierce delivers a digressive monologue in the living room of Nate’s small NYC apartment, and although he’s onstage and we’re in the audience, he feels close enough to hug. Lost in the universe—his to-do list seems endless—Nate takes consolation in astrology, though he suspects it may be bogus. Like the celestial charts that he loves explaining, the play is exquisite in detail but cosmic in theme; it has a Thornton Wilder soul. 

Midway through A Life, Bock throws a jaw-dropping curveball, in the form of an unexpected death in Nate’s family that utterly upends the play. As the world of the first half falls away—an effect evoked by Laura Jellinek’s triumph of a set—the focus widens to other characters, including Nate’s good friend Curtis (Brad Heberlee), all 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, and the city lights prevent you even from seeing the anyhow indifferent stars. 

Playwrights Horizons (Off Broadway). By Adam Bock. Directed by Anne Kauffman. With David Hyde Pierce. Running time: 1hr 20mins. No intermission. Through Dec 4. Click here for full ticket and venue information.

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