By: Patrick Christiano
The world premiere of Adam Bock’s profound new play, “A Life,” at Playwright’s Horizon stars an endearing David Hyde Pierce as Nate, a 54 year -old gay single New Yorker whose fear of intimacy keeps him from sustaining a lasting relationship. The play begins with Nate, the central character, alone in his apartment and despondent after being dumped by his most recent boyfriend. He attempts to make sense out of another failed relationship in a 30 minute plus dialogue with the audience. He sits on the couch in his austere surroundings chatting away about how group therapy and astrology have given him an awareness of his personal challenges.
We discover that Nate is a likeable loser, who can’t make the connections to lift him above his bleak circumstances, although he apparently longs for a companion to share his life. Nate tells us how lonely he feels since his latest boyfriend broke up with him, and that his group therapy friends insist he has a problem with intimacy. As a proofreader at an ad agency, he may be stuck in a dead-end job, but Nate believes that by studying astrology, notably the positions of the planets in certain houses of his chart, the ancient science will provide answers, or maybe it won’t he concedes. One thing is certain he states, “I can’t live like this anymore.”.
Midway through “A Life” Bock throws a stunning curve-ball into the story, and the world of the play is turned upside down, never to be the same again, as the tale broadens its focus to other characters. Their small talk becomes almost appalling in juxtaposition to what has just happened. And the production, too, has a bold surprise in scenic designer Laura Jellinek’s set, which literally turns upside down like Nat’s sad life.
Pierce is utterly compelling from moment to moment as Nate, a role that couldn’t be more different than his upcoming return to Broadway, co starring opposite Bette Midler in the highly-anticipated revival of Hello, Dolly! And the entire cast, which includes Marinda Anderson, Nedra McClyde and Lynne McCollough in multiple roles, turns in solid support under director Anne Kaufman’s astute hand.
The story is moving and ultimately haunting. I am certain A Life will remain with me long after the final curtain.
“A Life” is now playing at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd Street, though December 4, 2016. For tickets or more information call 212 270-4200 or online www.playwrightshorizons.org Photos: Joan Marcus