On Stage With David Cale
We're Only Alive for A Short Amount of Time reveals the actor's traumatic childhood
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GROWING up in the English town of Luton, 30 miles from London, Obie Award-winning singer/actor David Cale experienced a childhood characterized by painful tragedy and gripping drama, creating a powerful story that years later he just couldn’t keep to himself.
That shocking story has unfolded into the critically acclaimed presentation We’re Only Alive for A Short Amount of Time, a solo musical memoir that continues its world premiere run at the Goodman Theatre through October 21.
In the 90-minute emotional performance, Cale describes how he was caught up in the middle of his parents’ rocky marriage, and his way of coping was through song and a love for animals, particularly birds. For him, therapy came in the form of his eventual collection of 300 birds and a backyard animal hospital, with a turtle being its first patient and a baby carriage serving as a portable ambulance.
Even before the show starts, set designer Kevin Depinet gives an indication of the importance of birds in this production when the audience is greeted with 14 birdcages of different shapes and sizes hanging from the stage’s ceiling. They are indicative of what the youngster’s aviary could have looked like inside his garden shed.
Tickets to We’re Only Alive for a Short Amount of Time are $25 to $70. For more information, go to www.goodmantheatre.org.
Photography by Liz Lauren
Cale is a gifted and entertaining storyteller who shares this wrenching part of his life with an effective pace, sometimes using disarming levity and a collection of songs to paint a disturbing picture of adversity during a rough childhood. The one-man show is actually described as a musical, with Cale’s presentation being enhanced by a quintet of musicians––David Belden (viola), Michelle Campbell (harp), Desiree Miller (cello), Jered Montgomery (trumpet) and Anna Najoom (clarinet).
We’re Only Alive, directed by Robert Falls, is a raw and insightful look at the turbulence in a dysfunctional family (also highlighting some of Cale’s mother’s problems), but it’s also as much about the resilience of children and how they often are forced to make the most of a bad situation.
Cale, who has returned to the Goodman after a 10-year absence, is compelling and dramatic while sharing his personal and sometimes-appalling story that highlights his debilitating past, a past that––with courage and persistence––he overcame. And that journey is now serving as an example for others that there is always hope.
"My childhood in this rough town was turbulent and drama-filled."