Review: Sea Wall/A Life starring Tom Sturridge and Jake Gyllenhaal

August 9, 2019

In Sea Wall/A Life, Tom Sturridge and Jake Gyllenhaal deliver two one man plays that while not meant to go together, blend beautifully through common themes of life, death, love, and familial relationships. The beautiful writing, combined with the equally stunning and emotionally devastating performances create a show that fills the stage more than you would think is possible. 


The staging is simple. The two levels of the stage show off a simplistic brick backdrop, while the minimal furniture onstage consists of a piano, a ladder, and a desk. In the first half, Sea Wall, Sturridge explores the almost childlike human need to know the unknowable while in A Life, Gyllenhaal explores the emotional evolution of sons to fathers and the power of love.


Carrie Cracknell's direction makes it feel like she wasn't even there, and purposefully so. Rather than it feeling like there are two actors performing you feel the pain and suffering that Alex (Sturridge) is going through in Sea Wall, while sharing in the small interludes of joy that permeate throughout Abe's (Gyllenhaal) otherwise sad story in A Life.


The performances by both Sturridge and Gyllenhaal are flawless, while still feeling flawed. They embody the two men in the plays so perfectly, showing us their flaws, their feelings, their emotions, and their gestures, completely entrancing the audience to the point where a movement or a word feels like it comes directly from Alex or Abe, rather than Sturridge or Gyllenhaal. It is truly a masterclass in acting technique. 


The two men in Sea Wall/A Life could be any men. The themes that the stories contain are those so completely universal that you can't help but feel a connection to their worlds and their relationships as the stumble, sometimes literally, through retelling their stories. It is a raw, clear, and real demonstration of the emotions that are the pulse at the heart of one's life, no matter who you are. 

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