Two years and one pandemic later, Birthday Candles, starring Debra Messing, finally makes its Broadway debut — and if it’s good old-fashioned life perspective you’re searching for, bring all the issues and some tissues, too.
Written by Noah Haidle, the production is a time-trip: Spanning 90 years in one woman’s life…and the highs and sometimes crushing lows that go along with the journey.
“It’s the most challenging thing I have ever been a part of bar-none,” the Will & Grace star tells ABC Audio. “Not ever leaving the stage, aging 90 years and having to gently transform throughout the play.”
From carefree teenager to midlife and the inevitable senior years, Messing’s character, Ernestine, marks her passage of time by celebrating a birthday every year — no matter what the circumstances are. And with every birthday come the inevitable questions.
“’Have I wasted my life?’ That is a question we ask ourselves at every stage of life,” Messing says. “That’s our greatest fear.”
Messing says the collective experience of the last few years makes the production “more relevant and more prescient” than ever. “It’s about connection,” she says. “We lost connection during the pandemic and connection is the thing that is most fragile in a family dynamic.”
Her co-star, Enrico Colantoni, echoes the sentiment. “My favorite line in the play is ‘notice what we have left.’ I don’t think that would have affected me the way it did if not for COVID,” he tells ABC Audio. “Little things are important now. Time spent with your family. I think that’s why it resonates with so many people now having gone through the two years. Everyone’s life is beautiful.”
Birthday Candles is now playing through May 29 at The American Airlines Theater.
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