'Sea Wall/A Life' Becomes First Broadway Show of the 2019-20 Season in the Black

Sea Wall Life-Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

The double-bill of solo one-acts starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge, which concluded its limited run Sunday, recouped its initial investment in just nine weeks.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge ended their latest Broadway run Sunday on a high. The double-bill of tender monologues in which they star, Sea Wall/A Life, closed out its nine-week limited engagement at the Hudson Theatre with its highest gross to date, pushing the show into profit.

Lead producers Nine Stories, Ambassador Theatre Group, Seaview Productions and Benjamin Lowy Productions on Tuesday announced that the show has recouped its initial investment, becoming the first production of the 2019-20 Broadway season to do so.

Directed by Carrie Cracknell, the show comprised two thematically connected one-act plays, both centering on young fathers processing the raw emotions of love and loss. It starred Sturridge in Simon Stephens' Sea Wall and Gyllenhaal in Nick Payne's A Life, reconnecting both actors with playwrights with whom they had collaborated in the past.

While the production was a sold-out critical hit downtown at the Public Theater early this year, a Broadway transfer, particularly during the tourist-driven summer months when nonmusicals tend to suffer, was a risk, even with a relatively low capitalization of $2.8 million. But rave reviews and the marquee power of Gyllenhaal and, to a lesser extent, Sturridge, showed that this kind of spare, elemental storytelling could work.

Sea Wall/A Life began previews July 26 at the Hudson and officially opened Aug. 8. It averaged 96 percent capacity throughout the run, with a cumulative box office total of $6.5 million.

The producers reported that the show attracted an unprecedented number of fledgling theatergoers, with databases showing that 73 percent of ticket buyers were experiencing Broadway for the first time and 65 percent of purchases for the production were from customers under 44 years of age.

Audible, the Amazon-owned downloadable audiobook and spoken-word entertainment company, announced last month that Sea Wall/A Life will be recorded with Gyllenhaal and Sturridge as an Audible Original production, with a release date to be announced.

Nine Stories, the film, TV and theater development and production company Gyllenhaal heads with Riva Marker, also is a producer on the Broadway transfer of Jeremy O. Harris' downtown hit Slave Play, currently in previews ahead of an Oct. 6 opening; and will serve as an associate producer next spring on Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of the Tony Kushner-Jeanine Tesori musical, Caroline, or Change.

Next up at the Hudson is David Byrne's theatrical concert, American Utopia, which starts previews Friday ahead of an Oct. 20 opening.