Birthday Candles


Birthday Candles

Full-Length Play, Drama  /  3f, 3m

This poignant and funny Broadway hit, about the extraordinary moments that make up one woman’s ordinary life, explores the highlights and heartbreaks of 100 years in just 90 minutes.

“For my money, Birthday Candles is precisely why people go to the theater.” – Chicago Tribune

Image: 2022 Roundabout Theatre Company Production (Joan Marcus)

  • Cast Size
    Cast Size
    3f, 3m
  • Duration
    90 minutes
  • Audience
    Target Audience



Ernestine Ashworth spends her 17th birthday agonizing over her insignificance in the universe. Soon enough, it’s her 18th birthday. Even sooner, her 41st. Her 70th. Her 101st. Five generations, an infinity of dreams, and one cake baked over a century.

This poignant and funny play takes its audience through the highlights, heartbreaks and extraordinary moments that make up one woman’s ordinary life.

Birthday Candles premiered on Broadway at the American Airlines Theatre on April 10, 2022. Directed by Vivienne Benesch, the production starred Debra Messing and featured Enrico Colantoni, Crystal Finn, Susannah Flood, John Earl Jelks and Christopher Livingston.

Twelve roles, six actors, one goldfish.

ERNESTINE ASHWORTH – Travels from age seven to 107. In that time she will be a daughter, a girlfriend, a wife, a mother, a friend, an aunt, a mother-in-law, a widow, a second wife, a grandmother, a great grandmother, and a great great grandmother.
ALICE – Selfless. Strong. Ernestine’s mother.
KENNETH – Ernestine’s awkward and annoying next door neighbor.
MATT – Chiseled jawline. A middle linebacker on the high school football team. Ernestine’s boyfriend then husband.
BILLY – Sensitive. An ear for music. Ernestine and Matt’s son.
MADELINE – Troubled. Bemused. Beautiful. Erudite. Ernestine and Matt’s daughter. Played by actor playing Alice.
JOAN – Anxious. Very anxious. Billy’s wife.
ALEX – Takes no bullshit. Billy and Joan’s daughter. Played by actor playing Joan.
ERNIE – Ethereal. Vivacious. She doesn’t walk, she glides. Alex’s daughter. Played by actor playing Alice and Madeline.
WILLIAM – Thirteen. Grand. Played by actor playing Matt.
JOHN – A man woken up in the middle of the night. Played by actor playing Billy.
BETH – John’s domestic partner, she quit smoking ten years ago and hasn’t been in a good mood since. Played by actor playing Joan and Alex.

Twelve roles, six actors, one goldfish.

Roles are doubled as below:


  • Time Period Contemporary, Present Day, New Millennium/21st Century, 1990s, 1920s, 1980s, 1970s, 1960s, 1950s, 1940s / WWII, 1930s
  • Setting A kitchen in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1920s-2020s.
  • Features Contemporary Costumes / Street Clothes, Period Costumes
  • Duration 90 minutes
  • Cautions
    • Strong Language


“A truly must-see show. Epic and beautifully written.” – New York Daily News

“A true gift.” – Variety

“For my money, Birthday Candles is precisely why people go to the theater, which is to think about their families, ponder their past romantic mistakes, stare down the demons of their futures and commune with those they have loved and lost.” – Chicago Tribune

“There were plenty of empathetic sniffles and sighs in the audience during the performance. The most moving moments to me were those quiet exchanges that functioned as silhouettes for unspoken griefs.” – The New York Times

“Affecting... it confronts the big and small questions of existence and time itself.” – The Daily Beast

“Warm... bubbles up our own cherished and difficult memories of the people in our lives who’ve come and gone.” – The New York Post


  • Birthday Candles - Show Clips

  • Devra Messing Discusses Birthday Candles

  • Birthday Candles - Roundabout Promo


  • Birthday Candles

    Image: 2022 Roundabout Theatre Company Production (Joan Marcus)

  • Birthday Candles

    Image: 2022 Roundabout Theatre Company Production (Joan Marcus)

Licensing & Materials

  • Minimum Fee: £69 per performance plus VAT when applicable.


Available Formats:


Take a look below at how you can enhance your show!


Noah Haidle

Noah Haidle is an award-winning playwright whose work has been seen on six continents. For the 2017-2018 season, he was the writer-in-residence at the National Theater of Mannheim, Germany, a position first held by Friedrich Schiller in 1785. A graduate of Princeton and Juill ...
View full profile


Now Playing

Community Experiences