Review: Danny and the Deep Blue Sea (Wolf Manor Theatre Collective)

Two troubled souls meet in a bar in this exciting site-specific play on stage in Toronto

Two seemingly mismatched but deeply troubled souls meet at bar, and events spiral clumsily and rapidly from there in Danny and the Deep Blue Sea. The two-hander site specific show takes place in a local bar. Having just completed their run at the Imperial Pub on Dundas, Wolf Manor Theatre Collective will continue their run at the ROUND Venue beginning January 19-22, 2017.

Right from the start, the show is abrasive and uncomfortable. It is vulgar, raw and gritty, but all of these aspects forces the audience to sit and take notice. As the story progresses in this dark and dingy bar, the characters blossom, their relationship gels, and you can’t help but feel for them. Watching this performance is not easy and there are many themes present that may be triggering and will likely stir up uneasy emotions–at first I thought I wasn’t going to enjoy myself, but I found myself enthralled in the end.

Danny (Dylan Brenton) is loud and aggressive. He stumbles into the bar with torn clothes, bandaged hands, and cuts on his face. He claims they’re from a bar fight from the night before — one of the other guys might be dead, he’s not sure. Danny says ‘fuck’ more times than he says anything else and if you have a problem with it, he can take you outside.

At the bar, he meets Roberta (Bria McLaughlin). At first glance, she seems like a put together type of person (though understandably on edge in Danny’s presence), but deeply rooted familial problems haunt her in ways most people would never comprehend. From this point forward, their lives intertwine in unpredictable ways.

As the show began, it felt like Brenton and McLaughlin needed a few beats to secure their footing. The dialogue felt stilted, a bit unnatural, and McLaughlin’s first few lines were delivered too quick to really understand. My friend Amber, who joined me for the evening, felt that McLaughlin’s character of Roberta started out feeling a bit contrived — she may say she’s actually and seriously crazy, but it didn’t come off as genuine.

Gradually, as the unlikely friendship between the two develops, we see the characters solidified and become much more believable. The pacing and dialogue irons out, and we both felt drawn into their lives. Much of it is rather unpleasant: Danny is violent, so is Roberta, and much of that plays out in real time. If depictions of domestic violence is something that makes you uncomfortable, please consider this in advance.

Amber commented that the haphazard and roughly thrown together relationship between Danny and Roberta reminded her greatly of life growing up in a small town, where it was very common to witness people make rash life decisions at a moment’s notice for better or for worse. Though Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is meant to depict life struggling in the Bronx, New York, the parallels are undeniable.

Ultimately Brenton and McLaughlin deliver commendable performances and their chemistry together, needless to say, explodes like a house on fire. Together they deliver a story that is painful and often seems unbearable, but at its core, that is the beauty of this production. You may not have much hope for them, but you often wonder if these two will be each other’s salvation.

The atmosphere of the bar lends itself to the seedy underbelly of the story. I enjoyed their choice of using the back room of the Imperial Pub, a fine Toronto dive bar. In the second act, a small single mattress, strewn clothes, a lamp and a tealight candle are thrown together to create a rough makeshift bedroom that feels equally as dingy. It works well for the production.

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is the first production of Wolf Manor Theatre Collective’s 2017 season — their first season ever. It’s exciting to see a new bare-roots theatre company make their debut and to see what the rest of their new season holds. If this production is any indication of what they have planned for the year, then I’m excited to see what they’re going to do next.


  • Danny and the Deep Blue Sea continues at the ROUND Venue (152 Augusta Ave) January 19-22, 2017.
  • Performances are at 7 pm with a matinee on Sunday, January 22 at 2 pm.
  • Tickets are $20-22 for general admission and can be purchased online.
  • Audience advisory: Performance contains depictions of violence, coarse language, and adult content. Due to the nature of the performance and the venue, audience members must be 19+.

Photo of Bria McLaughlin and Dylan Brenton by Burke Campbell.