Monday, August 19, 2019

Weekly Margin 2019, W33: Sea Wall / A Life

8/12/19: Sea Wall / A Life
What: Transfer from an earlier Off-Broadway run at The Public. A pair of monologue plays by Simon Stephens and Nick Payne, of two men telling stories of family and loss.
And? I think this production might have gotten a skosh overhyped for me. At least, on the scale of heartbreaking monologue plays from across the pond about losing children, it's very hard (possibly impossible) to beat Carey Mulligan in Dennis Kelly's Girls & Boys. That being said, I read that Sea Wall  was written specifically for Andrew Scott to perform, and though Tom Sturridge was fine, I would have loved to see Scott's version (Jake Gyllenhaal was fine and charming in his piece, too). I think ultimately both plays feel a bit underbaked to me; the first play is too close in time to the events told, but it's neither immediate or distanced enough to reach any conclusive idea (I know the point is it doesn't conclude, but that's life, not theater), while the second play does a fine job of melding the two timelines without actually communicating any ideas I haven't heard before. And then the final moment, when the two are woven together in a wordless epilogue, just does not work for me. Is the point that they are two stories among many? I already know that. This tells me nothing new. Is the point that in each window is another story of life, of death? I know that, too. The two plays already have enough thematic joiners for me to accept them as one piece. The epilogue is unnecessary and an unearned attempt at a final emotional manipulation. (rereading this, it sounds like I hated the shows. I didn't; I just think they could be better, and hope this isn't the final draft)

Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge as Abe and Alex. Photo by Richard
Hubert Smith.

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