Performing Arts: Theater
July 17, 2019
Many years ago, David Cale unassumingly took the stage at downtown haunts like P.S. 122 and unspooled simple stories made riveting by his precise, self-effacing, and effortless presentation. This charming wordsmith immediately gained a loyal following. His text was simple but vivid and since then, Cale has appeared in many theater, film and TV productions.

Now he has returned to the Public Theater with We're Only Here For A Short Time a song play hitched to his family’s story. He hasn’t changed much -- diligently retaining his lanky frame and sense of childish wonderment. His long face and hawkish nose still suggest avian looks suit the opening song about Canada Geese gliding in the sky.

Born in Luton, England to a working class family that struggled with alcoholism, depression and rage, Cale winds facts and memory around an autobiography animated through text and song-- a one-man, one-band show. Among many other gifts, Cale manages to convert his multi-generational family members into universal characters. That’s what touches the audience. Easily shifting from a brutal man to a sensitive, artistic woman, Cale draws sympathetic characters despite their foibles or savage acts.

The story opens on a young boy’s love of animals. He builds an animal hospital and dedicates himself to saving all the injured creatures encountered around town. Happily restoring his four-legged and feathered patients to health, when it comes to the human species, Cale’s restorative gifts fail. But Cale fully and completely succeeds in ardently humanizing the people who frightened and ultimately inspired him.

Stretched across a dark strip at the back of the stage, six talented musicians -- Matthew Dean Marsh (Piano), Josh Henderson (Viola), Tomina Parvanova (Harp), Jessica Wang (Cello), John Blevins (Trumpet), and Tyler Hseih(Clarinet) -- accompany the songs and perform interstitial music composed by Cale and Matthew Dean Marsh.

Director Robert Falls gives Cale space to paint a poignant portrait of life in a small, working-class town – a place that nurtured him and stung him with the determination to leave. We’re so happy he migrated across the pond and into our theaters.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

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