For the first half of Adam Bock’s “A Life” — before its life-changing coup de theatre — David Hyde Pierce as Nate sits on his Eames sofa and seems to be taking stock of his life. A gay New Yorker who works as a proofreader at an ad agency, he is still reeling from his latest breakup, and occasionally glances at his cell phone — “He keeps not calling me.” He holds up his astrological chart and explains it to us in some detail – a neighbor turned him on to astrology after he confessed to her “I’d lost faith in everything I’d ever learned.” He loves it, considers it a science, but also goes to group therapy to help make sense of his life because “astrology might be full of shit.” He tells us about his group sessions, and how the other members think he has a problem with intimacy.
“There has to be another way,” he says, and it’s apparent he is talking about his life as a whole.
We’ve more or less made our peace with “A Life” as a monologue, when the scene shifts, and Nate’s best friend Curtis (Brad Heberlee) joins him for an idle chat in the park while they casually comment on the hunks they eye jogging past.
And then something happens that I can’t talk about – I don’t want to spoil it. It’s safest to quote the promotional material, which characterizes his monologue as having questioned his place in the cosmos. “The answer he receives, when it comes, is shockingly obvious — and totally unpredictable.”
I would have loved for “A Life” to have been a play more worthy of attention leading up to the abrupt change in perspective. There is a meandering quality to Nate’s conversation that may well be intentional, but can come across as filler. But all (or most) is forgiven by the end.
Director Anne Kauffman has a splendid track record in plays such as The Nether and Belleville and Detroit both of making the other-wordly seem ordinary and of investing the everyday with ineffable dread. Her precise and pointed direction of “A Life” is aided immeasurably by her design team, especially scenic designer Laura Jellinek’s clever stagecraft and sound designer Mihail Fiksel’s half-amusing, half-horrifying ode to the sounds of the city. The supporting cast is spot-on. But it’s the charming, credible, comical and ultimately chilling performance of David Hyde Pierce that makes “A Life” memorable.
Written by Adam Bock
Directed by Anne Kauffman
Marinda Anderson — Jocelyn
Brad Heberlee — Curtis
Nedra McClyde — Allison
Lynne McCollough — Lori Martin
David Hyde Pierce — Nate Martin
Scenic Design: Laura Jellinek
Costume Design: Jessica Pabst
Lighting Design: Matt Frey
Sound Design: Mikhail Fiksel
Production Stage Manager: Erin Gioia Albrecht
Running time: About 80 minutes with no intermission
Tickets: $59 to $99
“A Life” is scheduled to run through November 27, 2016