It’s amazing how quickly life goes by. One minute you’re a teenager with your whole future ahead of you. The next thing you know, you are holding your first grandchild.
This is the premise of the new Broadway play, Birthday Candles. Written by Noah Haidle, it tells the story of Ernestine (Debra Messing). The audience initially meets her as a starry-eyed seventeen-year-old and then follows her throughout the years, ending when she is one hundred and seven. As she goes through the various stages of life, she bakes a cake for each birthday. Among those who come in and out of Ernestine’s life is Enrico Colantoni (Just Shoot Me), who plays her long-time neighbor, and John Earl Jelks, who plays both her husband and grandson.
I’ve been a fan of Messing since Will & Grace. She was the reason I wanted to see the play. I was impressed with not just her performance, but the performances of all of the actors. Instead of aging via prosthetics and makeup, they rely on posture, changes in costumes, props, and wigs. It is a magnificent narrative and a treatise on life, family, and relationships.
My only problem is that the end of the play could have been cut down a little bit. Other than that, it is a piece of theater that is remarkable and worth every second.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely. It is also 90 minutes without an intermission.
Birthday Candles is playing at the American Airlines Theater in New York City until May 29th, 2022. Check the website for tickets and showtimes.