Review: The Sunset Limited, Boulevard Theatre

The Sunset Limited dabbles in discussing the depressive state man finds himself in, until it propels forward and it finds itself questioning whether there are any real reasons to stay alive in a world where you will always end up alone. Cormac McCarthy’s play debates human suffering, the power of religion and whether life is truly worth living. 

This two-man play follows White (Jasper Britton) and Black (Gary Beadle), named for their respective skin colours, after White has been prevented by Black from committing suicide. Off stage they have travelled to Black’s empty apartment, fitted out with an eerie black and white projection of the surrounding housing blocks, and now argue over the many reasons for White not to leave and instead remain alive and with Black. 

McCarthy wrote the play with an intense precision that is carried by Beadle through his heart-warming and quick-witted performance. The fast, passionate and yet relaxed dialogue spins Black into a fiercely kind theist who is seeking redemption following his criminal background, he is providing God’s message to White. White on the other hand is a lacklustre and deflated Professor, as named by Black, who can no longer, or more accurately has never, seen a meaning for life and now is deciding to end it all by standing in front of the Sunset Limited, a New York City commuter train. 

Beadle and Britton present Black and White as two sides of the same coin; one has so much belief he is sacrificing his own happiness in sight of saving others, while the other is sacrificing his own life due his terminal unhappiness. They balance on the edge nicely and fall off together. 

The Sunset Limited is existentially pressurised; while White argues that the world is such a heinous and lonesome place, Black is adamant in the grace of God being omnipresent. The two collide and White repeatedly asks to leave. What initially appears to be a fight of wit and persuasion transforms into a real insight into severe mental illness. 

White’s depression takes on a destructive force as he loses his ability to hold back from Black’s holy preaching; he is profoundly lonely. As the 90-minute productive continues, an easy spar becomes a loss for words as quiet comedy loses to the power of reality and very real unhappiness. What begins as a moral discussion, a poetic but human debate on the existence of God in a damning world, is actually a play that loses hope.

The Sunset Limited is playing the Boulevard Theatre until 29 February. For more information and tickets, visit the Boulevard Theatre website.