Review: Danny and the Deep Blue Sea (BARO Theatre Company)

Two life rejects explore love in Danny and the Deep Blue Sea at Toronto’s Brockton Collective Studio

It’s always exciting to see a play in a new venue and the Brockton Collective Studio, currently featuring Danny & The Deep Blue Sea, charmed me the minute I walked in. It is obviously a multi-purpose space, with one end featuring the curved wall characteristic of a photo studio. A long bar stretches across from it, serving beer to the audience as we waited for the play to begin. The bar then became the first set of the play, a deserted dive in the Bronx where Roberta and Danny meet.

The second half of the play is set in Roberta’s bedroom, a large bed in front of the curved wall across from the bar, and we were informed when we entered that half way through the show we would have to turn our seats around. This seemed like it might be awkward but it was actually very smooth. The moment to transition is obvious, and the break in action to carry it out is perfectly timed and musically accompanied. Our light folding chairs were set in a loose jumble of lines from the outset, so it didn’t feel like that the space was too restricted to turn around. However I was in the back row for the first half/first row for the second half, so people in the middle may have been more squished.

The action follows the two characters who are both down and out, entrenched in the violence, alcoholism, and misery of people who have inherited a lower class standing in life. Danny is a brawler, someone who would rather punch a guy than talk to him. Roberta got pregnant at a young age and has never been able to escape the influence of her dominating parents. She also has a secret she’s been burning to tell someone, and the taciturn Danny, the only other patron in the bar, is going to have to hear it.

This initial setup had a few spots where my companion and I had a bit of trouble suspending our disbelief. At least one of them is obviously in the script – there is no bartender character. It’s a bit hard to swallow a depiction of a drinking establishment where no one is working. Or, in this production, where a bartender pours a beer then leaves and stays gone for the next forty minutes, even when violence breaks out.

Once the action got into its stride, however – once Roberta had managed to provoke Danny out of his shell – all the small concerns melted away and I was just interested in the relationship developing between the two. The actors, Brooke Morgan and Mark Wiebe, skillfully enacted a complex dynamic: their delusions, their self-loathing, the barriers they erect to protect themselves, the games they play to get what they want.

Roberta is the more complicated character, and Brooke Morgan gives a wonderful study of her, an embodiment that doesn’t shy away from Roberta’s many faults, but also doesn’t judge or pity her. Danny doesn’t give Wiebe as much to explore, and on a few occasions the “big dumb guy from the Bronx” persona seemed a little forced, but those were really very few.

My companion and I were also quite taken with the details of the costuming: Danny’s threadbare boxer shorts and undershirt stained with what might be blood; Roberta’s greasy hair and mismatched bra and panties.

I really enjoyed this play, and I think it’s an important one for so adeptly showing the psychological states of people stuck in a situation they can’t comprehend because they haven’t the education. No one has ever given anyone in Danny’s and Roberta’s families the words or concepts to understand how class oppression works. So instead they scrabble at their unhappiness, and Baro Theatre Company allows us to have some insight into their minds.

Details

Photo of Brooke Morgan and Mark Wiebe provided by the company.