Sea Wall/A Life: Excellent Storytelling. Fabulous Acting.

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I didn’t have high hopes that I would be engaged in or enjoy the two-monologue play “Sea Wall/A Life”, written by two different playwrights.
Honestly, it seemed like the evening could be quite deadly. Instead of the show being deadly, I was dead wrong.

I was actually drawn in immediately and stayed so during the first monologue, delivered expertly by Tom Sturridge, curious to know how the 2nd play, performed by Jake Gyllenhaal would be as the follow-up piece. Each monologue is just about 45 minutes, and there is an intermission so it is a very comfortable pace.

Sea Wall/A Life: Excellent Storytelling. Fabulous Acting.

Photo credit: Richard Hubert Smith

We first meet Alex (Tom Sturridge), a photographer on holiday in the south of France in “Sea Wall.” Alex is a husband and a father, and quite poetic in the way he talks about his wife, daughter and father-in-law.  “Sea Wall” is lovingly written by Simon Stephens.

Sea Wall/A Life: Excellent Storytelling. Fabulous Acting.

Photo credit: Richard Hubert Smith

Following intermission, the play “A Life” features Abe (Jake Gyllenhaal), a music producer who learns that his wife is having a baby. This play, written by Nick Payne, is quite unique in that one account in his tale blends into another, and it is not clear where one begins or ends, until it is clear, and the convention proves to be exceedingly clever.

There is nothing more to say in terms of plot because the storytelling that these two excellent actors perform take us on their personal journeys. Tying the two pieces together, each play uncovers the threads that exist between life and death, the powerful bonds of family and love, and how life continues past grief.

This is an evening of just excellent storytelling. Each actor stands in front of a brick wall the entire time and it is enough. We don’t need fancy sets, or movement, or anything else. Just the story. It is not a surprise that Audible (the behemoth audio book company) is a co-producer on the show. A good story, whether told in an audio book form or performed on stage is a good story.

Sea Wall/A Life is beautifully directed by Carrie Cracknell and runs through September 29.

For more theatre news, conversation and interviews, join Valerie Smaldone Saturday mornings, 9:05-10 for “Bagels and Broadway” on WNYM-AM radio, online at, Alexa and podcast.

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