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Sea Wall In The Summertime
Sea Wall In The Summertime

Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge in dialogue about taking their conjoined monologues to Broadway.

Jackson McHenry

They headline Sea Wall / A Life, but aside from the curtain call, Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge are never onstage at the same time. But they’ve clearly become friends, joking when I meet them backstage about posing on the sofa in the style of those sultry ads for Burn This with Keri Russell and Adam Driver. As the more established movie star, Gyllenhaal acts a bit like the older brother to Sturridge’s more introverted, fidgety British sibling, though we’re grading on a curve here: They’re both nervous, fidgety people. Also, they are wearing matching gold chains.

The show started at the Public Theater in February and March and now has moved to Broadway with the same director, Carrie Cracknell. In the first of the two monologues, Sea Wall, by Simon Stephens, Sturridge plays a photographer who describes his relationship with his wife and father-in-law; then comes A Life, by Nick Payne, in which Gyllenhaal’s character talks alternately about his father’s illness and his wife’s pregnancy.

Both monologues reveal a tragedy at their centers, which might make them seem like acting exercises. As might getting two actors together to talk about what the other is doing onstage and how each of them got there. One thing Gyllenhaal is sure of is that the show has been subtly enlivened in its transfer. If nothing else, by the weather outside. “People referred to it as ‘stark,’ ” he says. “This show is no longer stark. This show is in the summer!”

TOM STURRIDGE: I want to start with October Sky … [Gyllenhaal’s 1999 breakthrough film role as a coal miner’s son].

JAKE GYLLENHAAL: [Laughs] Can you imagine? By the end of this interview, we’d hate each other.

TS: I don’t know how you came into contact with Nick [Payne].

JG: I went to a reading of a friend’s show, and Lynne Meadow, the artistic director, said, “I’m going to give you a couple of different playwrights that I think you’d be interested in,” and Nick happened to be one of those, and If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet happened to be one of the plays. I immediately fell in love with it. Then, as the universe would have it, the next thing we did was Constellations [also by Payne]. Why did you want to do your piece?

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August 5-18, 2019