★★★★ (out of 4)

Sept 15 - Oct 21, 2018 in Goodman's Albert Theatre

Around 90 minutes, no intermission

A musical memoir of hope, family and transcendence.

Growing up, writer/performer David Cale escaped his parents’ fraught marriage by singing in his bedroom and tending to birds in his backyard animal hospital—until a tragedy changed everything. Lush songs—featuring “an exquisite six-piece orchestra” (PerformInk)—and an intimate portrait of his mother unite in Cale’s vivid “survival story, deeply moving in its courage” (Chicago Tribune).



Buy Tickets

Select a performance to purchase tickets.

Applying or removing a promo-code will remove all items from your cart. Continue?
  • David Cale

    David Cale Playwright, Performer, Lyricist, Composer

  • Matthew Dean Marsh

    Matthew Dean Marsh Composer, Arrangements and Music Director

  • Robert Falls

    Robert Falls Director

  • Dave Belden

    Dave Belden Viola

  • Michelle Campbell

    Michelle Campbell Harp

  • Desiree Miller

    Desiree Miller Cello

  • Jered Montgomery

    Jered Montgomery Trumpet

  • Anna Najoom

    Anna Najoom Clarinet

  • Kevin Depinet

    Kevin Depinet Set Design

  • Paul Marlow

    Paul Marlow Costume Design

  • Jennifer Tipton

    Jennifer Tipton Lighting Design

  • Mikhail Fiksel

    Mikhail Fiksel Sound Design

  • Neena Arndt

    Neena Arndt Dramaturg

  • Briana J. Fahey

    Briana J. Fahey Production Stage Manager

  • Kimberly Ann McCann

    Kimberly Ann McCann Stage Manager

Critical Praise
  • "Deeply personal, indisputably courageous"

    - Chicago Tribune

  • "Strikes a resounding chord"

    - Chicago Sun-Times

  • "Frequently shocking and deeply moving"

    - Chicago Tribune

  • David Cale is "a spell-binding storyteller"

    - Los Angeles Times

  • "Deeply affecting"

    - Daily Herald

  • David Cale delivers "a singular kind of fusion, merging music with his one-man recitations"

    - Chicago Tribune

  • Cale's work combines "reality, fantasy and an almost clairvoyant insight into personality"

    - The New York Times

  • "A story of survival...of striving to transcend"

    - Chicago Tribune

  • David Cale is "a warm and gracious emcee to the story of his life"

    - Chicago Sun-Times

  • "Cale's storytelling is so compelling"

    - Daily Herald

  • A "deeply moving autobiographical show"

    - Chicago Tribune

  • Features "a quintet of superb Chicagoland musicians"

    - Chicago Sun-Times

  • "Cale has been working his whole life toward this one show"

    - Chicago Tribune

  • "Engrossing"

    - Daily Herald

Talks & Events
  • Drinks & Discussion Events

    Drinks & Discussion Events

    Throughout the run

    Enhance your theater-going experience with one of our Drinks & Discussion Series events! Stay after select performances for a Post-Show Discussion, arrive a bit early to select performances for a PlayTalk Session, or enjoy an Artist Encounter event.


Audience Response
  • Fascinating; indeed, riveting.

    Judith D. via Facebook

  • Fantastic performance of a heartfelt story. David Cale is magnificent!

    Goodman Patron via Rosemary K.

  • This was one of the most marvelous experiences we have had at the theater.

    Mark W. via Facebook

  • Cannot recommend it enough. Life-changing.

    Frank M. via Facebook

  • This might be the best play I've ever seen at the Goodman.

    David H. via Facebook

  • Original piece that transcends time and generations.

    Debra S. via Facebook

  • Phenomenal. The acting, the music and the flow of the story.

    Nancy A. via Facebook

  • A must-see. Run, don't walk. This is the real deal.

    Frank M. via Facebook

Recommended Reads

Join us for any of the following accessible performances.

Questions? Please contact 312.443.3800 (voice), 312.443.3829 (TTY/TDD) or email Access@GoodmanTheatre.org.

Touch Tour and Audio Described performanceTouch Tour and Audio-Described Performance
Saturday, October 13
12:30pm Touch Tour & 2pm Performance

For reserved seating for this service, use promo AUDIO.

Reservations for the touch tour are available at check-out for no additional charge. For more information, please call the Box Office or email Access@GoodmanTheatre.org.

American Sign Language Interpreted PerformanceAmerican Sign Language-Interpreted Performance
Wednesday, October 17 at 7:30pm

For reserved seating for this service, use promo SIGN.

Open Caption Performance Open-Captioned Performance
Saturday, October 20 at 2pm

For reserved seating for this service, use promo OPEN.

 See All Accessibility Information for We're Only Alive for A Short Amount of Time