By Holli Harms

Birthday Candles. Here we go! Hang on tight because it’s a magical roller coaster ride of life; your life, my life, our lives. Hop on, strap in, and enjoy the ride.

Birthday Candles now playing at the Roundabout Theater Company’s American Airlines Theater on 42nd street tells us to “risk your heart to find your place in the universe.” To live and be present, enjoying every moment of life because the years just ding by.

You will laugh. You will cry. Sometimes separate and sometimes simultaneously. You will recognize yourself, your family, your friends. You will fall in love.

The ensemble is tight, close-knit, and melodic. It’s great to see actors all on top of their game, living and loving and magically aging before our very eyes. These are people you would like to meet up with for coffee and a chat. The ninety minutes flew by on the wings of laughter and tears. The audience became one entity as we laughed, cheered, and teared together.

Birthday Candles shines a light on the poetry of the everyday. To see the art in each moment is the play’s message. Life is a ride, a roller coaster, a Ferris wheel going round and round like a goldfish in a bowl. Noah Haidle’s new play is deftly directed by Vivienne Benesch and played with sharpened precision by this wonderful cast.

Haidle has given us a play about hope and love, compassion, the strength of family, and a goldfish named Atman. Atman “the spiritual life principle of the universe.”

The set, designed by Christine Jones, a beautiful, whimsical kitchen, is alive with the incoming and outgoing presence of the family of Ernestine, (the mesmerizing Debra Messing) the matriarch of this clan, as they prepare for her birthday each year of her life. In the course of 90 minutes, she ages from 17 to 107 and we live it with her. We witness births and deaths and falling in and out of love and all that life has to give. These transitions from age to age are done with seamless precision by Benesch as if she were redirecting air from one point to another so that it seemed the whole audience breathed together in the storytelling.

The cast had us in the palm of their hands. The night I saw the production the understudy Brandon J. Pierce went on and he was superb. It is a tough job being an understudy and needing to step in at a moment’s notice. Step in and step up, and he did just that. Hats off to all understudies.

I can’t say enough about this amazing cast and their astonishing performances. Go see for yourself.

The New York premiere of Birthday Candles by Noah Haidle, directed by Vivienne Benesch, again I can’t say it enough, it’s a must-see.

New York premiere of Birthday Candles by Noah Haidle, directed by Vivienne Benesch.

With: Debra Messing, Enrico Colantoni, John Earl Jelks, Crystal Finn, Susannah Flood, Christopher Livingston

Design team: Christine Jones (Sets), Toni-Leslie James (Costumes), Jen Schriever (Lights), John Gromada (Sound), and Kate Hopgood (Original Music).

Tickets for Birthday Candles are on sale by calling 212.719.1300, online at, in person at a Roundabout box office. Ticket prices range from $39-$139. For groups of 10 or more please call 212-719- 9393 x 365 or email

Roundabout Theatre Company (Todd Haimes, Artistic Director/CEO) present Birthday Candles a limited engagement through Sunday, May 29, 2022 at the American Airlines Theatre on Broadway (227 West 42nd Street).

***For everyone’s protection and peace of mind, Roundabout is requiring proof of full COVID-19 vaccination with an FDA- or WHO-authorized vaccine for our audiences—as well as artists and staff. We will require proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test for those who are unvaccinated due to a disability or religious belief.