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6 Non-Gyllenhaal Reasons to See Sea Wall/ A Life

09.13.19

BY: JULIET MAZER-SCHMIDT

Two actors. Two playwrights. Two monologues – both delving into deep and dark material.  Why this? Why now? …Why “go there” OTHER than Jake Gyllenhaal?!

1. Tom Sturridge (Duh).

Tom Sturridge in Sea Wall. Photo by Richard Hubert Smith.

Tom Sturridge in Sea Wall. Photo by Richard Hubert Smith.

Act One (Sea Wall) belongs exclusively to English veteran of stage and screen Tom Sturridge, who delivers a captivating performance chock-full of auditory imagery. This is no warm-up act.

2. A Tranquil “Time Out” from Times Square.

New York’s Theater District is a sensory smorgasbord, as are many of its current offerings: from Simba’s Pride Rock and the magic-filled halls of Hogwarts; to the Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Love now bursting out of the Moulin Rouge; it can feel impossible to decompress. Sea Wall/A Life provides a quiet space where masterful story-telling reveals a subtler side of theatre. Sit back, release the chaos of Seventh Avenue from your psyche and replace it with a moving meditation on family played out on the Hudson Theatre’s historic stage.

3. Step Inside a Piece of American History.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Broadway’s Hudson Theatre stands saturated in more than a century of great stories. Built in 1903 and opened originally as a theatre venue, it’s where legends like Louis Armstrong and Elvis Presley took Broadway bows. Spending subsequent chapters as a radio studio, television studio, adult film movie house and rock club, the Hudson returned to its theatre roots in 2017 with revival of Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George (coincidentally, also featuring Gyllenhaal). (BONUS: the Hudson offers Tours!)

Hudson Theatre Circa 1903. Photo by Byron Company.

4. In Divisive Times, Sea Wall/A Life is a Lifesaver for One and All – (Ages 12 and Up).

These back-to-back one-acts tell two private tales of loss, love and legacy – refreshingly free from political or religious agenda. Playwrights Simon Stephens (Sea Wall) and Nick Payne (A Life) both excel in guiding audiences through emotional and potentially uncharted territory; their words combine with director Carrie Cracknell’s thoughtful stagecraft to create powerful circuitry fueled by human connection. (Performances of Sea Wall/A Life may include a bonus third act – playing out post-show, just beyond the theatre doors, in the form of phone calls from moved audience members to loved ones.)

5. Real Talk: Who DOESN’T Need a Good Place to Emote Openly These Days?

Photo by Krista Anna Lewis; collage added by Lily Ross.

Sea Wall/A Life offers opportunity for some serious catharsis. That said, there are also laughs to be had, particularly in the second act – we’re talking medical-grade laughter so genuine it blissfully balances out the pain, spreading Patronus-level protection over the audience.

6. SEA WALL/A LIFE Leaves You Better than it Finds You.

Fear not: no matter how dark the content may get, these narrators both believe firmly in life; the energy spread here is hopeful. Top to bottom, you’re in good hands – and the show’s closing moments, the only time both actors share the stage, are lovely.

Photo by Richard Hubert Smith

(7. Make no mistake: Jake Gyllenhaal IS exceptional. Couldn’t resist – and neither should you.)

Photo by Sarah Krulwich

SEA WALL/A LIFE plays at Broadway’s Hudson Theatre (W. 44th St. bet. 6/7) through September 29 – tickets in play on Broadway Roulette!