You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll love every minute
by Hope Guzzle
Staff Theater Critic
It was 5:15 on a Thursday when I was leaving theology class; I realized that I had nothing to do, so I decided to check out what was going on in the city that night. Of course, there were lots of galleries open, shops having sales, and great restaurants to check out; but I was in the mood to see a show. I thought I may want to see Wicked or Hamilton, something with large production value and was a relatively feel good show. Instead I saw a play with a two person cast that discussed human nature through stories of death and life; so basically the same thing. Seawall/ A Life are two separately written monologues performed by Tom Sturridge and Jake Gyllenhaal respectively. These stories are not woven together but rather performed individually and separated by an intermission.
When I first heard the premise, I was not sure if I was going to love the show, but I knew I would enjoy both $39 tickets and Jake Gyllenhaal. I was pleasantly surprised to walk out of the theatre greatly impressed by not only the quality of acting but also the beauty of the monologues. Sturridge plays a man overcome by grief after the loss of his six-year-old daughter and Gyllenhaal becomes a son who is not sure if he is ready to become a father.
Because both actors are completely alone during their hour I had my reservations about if the acting would cross out of deep and into campy. I will say that Jake Gyllenhaal could dump trash on me for an hour and I would say I thoroughly enjoyed myself, however both actors genuinely did a phenomenal job with the scripts that they were given. Both captured different aspects of human nature and what it means to live a life and held the audience’s attention while doing it. In combining both realistic anecdotes, solemn stories, and stunning delivery Seawall/ A Life takes the audience on an emotional rollercoaster like one I had not experienced in a long time. Due to the nature and style of the show, I was surprised by the two large names gracing the stage, but after seeing, I can see why both actors took time out of their schedules to perform this show. Overall, I would say that this show was one of my favorite play I have seen in a long time. It mixed traditional monologues with innovative staging and engaging acting.
This is where the story should have stopped, but it didn’t. I woke up the next day and could not get the story out of my head. What did Sturridge mean by “not yet”? Were those polaroids supposed to be knocked over? Were the cellphones supposed to go off? I could not stop thinking about what exactly it was the show was trying to tell me. So I did what any broke, budget-conscious college student would do and a bought ticket for another night.
As I took my seat for this performance, Tom Sturridge walked out on stage with his case and two beers, which was nothing new. During the last performance, both he and Gyllenhaal were on stage before the show officially began. However, what was different this time around was that he did not follow the same exact choreography that he did in the last. He would walk around and sit down sporadically; at one point when the audience got really quiet he told them that they should keep talking as he was “still waiting for some people”. Touches like this were ones I was expecting, while I managed to get my answers to my questions about the polaroids and cell phones, I got so much more out of it. The small differences between shows exemplified how intimate the show was. The audience was crucial in setting the tone for show and they allowed for seemingly small moments like this to occur. These moments allow the audience to feel a connection with the actors, a different connection than one would get with a larger show.
I know it is not possible for a lot of people to see this show not once, but twice, however if you can go see it you would be doing yourself a favor. Sadly, the show is only running for a few more weeks, but if you cannot make it not all hope is lost. Both actors recorded the entire show and are putting it on Audible. So even if you don’t want to shell out the money for tickets you can just use a YouTuber’s Audible code and listen to it. You don’t have an excuse, so do yourself a favor and watch the show.