Danny And The Deep Blue Sea played at the Scotiabank Studio Theatre. A company called Problem Solver produced the show.
Well before I got to the venue, the first thing that caught my attention about this play was that it was written by John Patrick Shanley. Danny And The Deep Blue Sea would be the third production of a work by Mr. Shanley I would see in less than three months.
Based on those other productions, I had fairly specific expectations. It would – I guessed – be set at night, in New York — specifically the Bronx borough – and likely explore an improbable romance.
Some of those expectations were confirmed by the set. The playing space was practically in darkness, and one of the most prominent features was a mattress on the floor with its sheets half made-up. A quick look at the program alluded to romance: one male character, Danny (Jonathan Shatzky) and one female character, Roberta (Daniella Forje).
The action picks-up in an empty bar, save for Roberta. She hugs a bowl of pretzels, eating them continuously. We hear Danny before he appears. He stomps in with a pitcher of beer. He doesn’t hesitate to sit alone.
Neither character attempts to move at first, so they shout across the bar at one another. Danny has the first line. Though he’s just asking for the bowl pretzels – that line sets up the direct manner of exchange that, in my experience, is a hallmark of Mr. Shanley’s style.
After a few minutes Roberta sits at Danny’s table. Despite the physical closeness, they continue to address one another with what seems like anonymous freedom, confessing anxiety and humiliation.
The dynamic is – I found – a fascinating mixture of genuine sexual chemistry and emotional distress. From moment-to-moment Danny and Roberta go from flirting and caressing to yelling and – at one point – strangling (Danny nearly kills Roberta).
Almost improbably, they wind-up in Roberta’s room later that night, and in large part due to the commitment of the actors, the work reaches an intensity and honesty that I found totally engrossing. Roberta and Danny pivot from humor as Danny, at one point, attempts to describe Roberta’s features, to romance, rhapsodizing about the wedding cake to be, to – again – verbally thrashing one another as Roberta’s low self confidence makes her exceptionally sensitive to any hint of criticism.
Danny And The Deep Blue Sea is in equal parts a thorough exploration of a volatile relationship, and a study of emotional trauma in each of the characters.
Both actors achieve magnificent performances. Maybe the best example of their commitment to the parts is a fight sequence when they strip one another bare. And for two Canadians, I thought they did terrific Bronx accents.
I thought this was an excellent production, and I’d strongly recommend going to it or to any production that Mr. Shatsky and Ms. Forje happen to be a part of.
– Danny And The Deep Blue Sea by John Patrick Shanley, ran from October 28th to November 6th at the Scotiabank Studio Theatre at the Pia Bourman (6 Noble Street)