Play: “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea”
Group: NonProphet Theatre
Venue: Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Blvd.
Dates: June 30, July 1, 2, 3
Tickets: $15-$20; contact 636-236-4831 or www.brownpapertickets.com
Story: Danny walks menacingly up to a table in a Bronx bar with a surly look and a half-filled pitcher of beer. He sits down, takes a swig and then pours a bit o’ suds over a wound on his freshly injured hand. He laps up what remains on the table. Roberta observes all of this from another table and begins a ragged conversation of sorts. Although Danny warns that “I ain’t too good at people,” the two begin what playwright John Patrick Shanley describes as an “Apache dance, a violent dance for two people.”
Over the course of 90 minutes in this one-act drama, born losers Danny and Roberta reveal the vulnerabilities beneath their scabbed exteriors. Roberta says she “did a bad thing as a child,” while Danny warns her that he may have just killed a man in a brawl. As they glare at each other, each slowly allows the other access to his/her private demons and even consider joining forces for a fling at the happiness that’s eluded them in their thirty-something lives. Can they succeed?
Highlights: Shanley’s taut 1983 work originally was performed at the Humana Festival in Louisville before going to New York in 1984, where actress June Stein and a young actor named John Turturro brought the characters to life. The ensuing 30 years have done little to deaden the impact of this raw, two-character piece, particularly when performed as memorably as by Robert A. Mitchell and Brooke Edwards in the NonProphet Theater production directed by Ray Gabica.
Both performers pick at their wounds in the self-destructive style you’d expect from their grisly, ghastly characters. They also, though, find the humor in Shanley’s surprising script and make the most of the moments of odd levity. With Gabica’s taut, intelligent direction, marred only by some stilted transition sequences between scenes, the result is an absorbing and draining experience for the audience as the two characters parry and thrust physically, verbally and emotionally in their desperation.
Other Info: Seth Ward Pyatt’s low, dingy lighting sets the tone and mood for this nether world journey into the lives of two tortured souls, who perform on a barebones set of a few tables and chairs and a makeshift bed. Even so, through the efforts of Edwards and Mitchell you can see the moon rise through Roberta’s window after they make love, or hear Mitchell’s unabashed eruptions of bizarre joy at his funky courtship of Roberta. Even as you know their chances of lasting love are minimal, with the talents of these two splendid performers under Gabica’s measured guidance you can envision various possibilities that defy the odds and the laws of reason.
We learn more about the reasons for Roberta’s self-loathing and desperation than we do about Danny’s borderline psychosis. Both Edwards and Mitchell, though, run an emotional gamut in the course of the presentation, to the point that we care about their characters even in their pitiable states.
That “deep blue sea,” however, will more likely drown them than keep them afloat as time takes its relentless toll on their respective lives.
Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.