Tom Sturridge and Jake Gyllenhaal Return to the New York Stage in Sea Wall/A Life
In A Life, Gyllenhaal plays a man struggling to reconcile his emotions surrounding the death of his father and the birth of his daughter. Originally titled The Art of Dying, the piece started as a monologue that Payne performed at London’s Donmar Warehouse in 2013, in the aftermath of his own father’s death. Gyllenhaal, who gave deeply felt performances in Payne’s earlier plays If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet and Constellations, spent the next four years begging the playwright to let him perform it. By the time he relented, Payne had become a father, and he, Cracknell, and Gyllenhaal worked together to bring A Life into its current form.
Gyllenhaal relishes the chance to perform something that feels so personal and vulnerable. “The nature of being alone onstage, as much as it might delight the 30 percent narcissist that I am, terrifies the other percentage,” he says. “At its best, it’s not a performance. There are no masks, no protection.”