Danny & The Deep Blue Sea - Review

Tony Award-Winning Playwright John Patrick Shanley gives his stamp of approval for the long-awaited revival of his stage play, after years of absence from the L.A. Stage, the show arrives at the intimate Performance Lab.

seperate 'lil and lonely' worlds, seemingly and obviously craving for each other's love, without ever having met yet.....

Initially opened April 20th, 2007 at Studio Stage, to sold out houses just from word of mouth, once they received the "go ahead" from the Playwright, they moved to their new location at The Elephant Theatre's Performance Lab.

Out of complete darkness the lights fade in to reveal Roberta (Deborah Dir) sitting miserably alone over an ash tray and a lonely glass of beer in the back of a seedy bar somewhere in the Bronx.

Roberta...looking at the ('stranger') Danny, who just entered the bar...

In staggers Danny (Daniel De Weldon) haggard from nights of brawling in the streets of New York. These two estranged people begin a reluctant conversation after Danny asks Roberta for some pretzels.

Danny (who just entered the bar)..pouring beer over his fight bruised hands...

The dramatic lighting and empty stage defines the solitary mood of these two characters as they confront each other and themselves as they uncover the struggle that is their daily existence. Danny's (De Weldon's) bleak out look on life is well portrayed through his demanding performance that draws approving laughs from the empathetic audience during many of his tirades. Roberta (Dir) is moved by the alienation that she and Danny share and is inspired to reveal her darkest secret that defines her self-hatred. Not wanting to be alone she invites Danny back to her house where she lives with her parents.

In the next scene they are having sex in her dingy little room; definitive of her self-loathing. As the scene progresses they begin to open up to the idea of finding an estranged love in a world that has rejected them. Feeling exposed, Roberta quickly covers herself in Danny's bloodied shirt; as if to say she accepts him in spite of the worst of what he thinks of himself. Feeling this hope for love she wants to be romantic with him and asks him to tell her something good about herself, which he does begrudgingly. When she compliments him his persona changes before the audience, getting out of bed and putting on his underwear he stands before the audience exposed and unashamed of himself he shows a depth to himself yet unseen. They begin to talk about having a different life together, to not be alone anymore. They could get married in a real church with a garden and have flowers, a cake, she could wear a white dress, and people could throw rice at them "in a nice way; not hard".  Upon agreeing to marry the lonely couple falls to sleep where we find them the next morning. Upon awaking Roberta begins to have second thoughts that Danny couldn't love her for the mistakes that she has made and the previous night was a mistake. Seeing through her insecurities, Danny remains unshaken and determined to follow through with marrying her, he then helps her forgive herself, and the play ends with them optimistic about a future together.

The strong character performances were evidence of director Michael Arabien's years of experience. Director, writer, actor, teacher and traveler. His shows have collectively won over 50 awards in L.A., N.Y. and London. Two productions of note: an updated version of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet conceived by Michael Arabian and set in present day L.A. and in 1995 Michael updated The Trojan Women by Euripides (starring Mariette Hartley) setting it in the Gulf War and staged at the Gilligan's Island Lagoon site in 400,000 gallons of water.
Michael sits on the board of WordTheatre, a nonprofit company dedicated to storytelling by great writers read by accomplished actors in live venues and in schools. The performances are broadcast live on National Public Radio and published by HarperAudio.

Deborah Dir's previous credits include the role of Ashley in George Furth's play Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, and Sex, directed by John Rubinstein. Before that she starred in LeRoi Jones Dutchman at the Elephant Theatre, Leonard Melfis' Ferryboat, and the critically acclaimed Summerfolk. Most recent film and television credits are Second Time Around, Bernie Mac, and Eavesdropper.

Daniel De Weldon studied theater with Uta Hagen, Michael Arabian & Howard Fine. His theatrical debut was in the '99 LA production of David Rabes' Streamers, directed by Michael Arabian. Daniel produced, directed and starred in the '03 LA production of Edward Albees' The Zoo Story. Moreover, Daniel has showcased such theatrical productions as Death of A Salesman, Lovers & Other Strangers, Does A Tiger Wear A Necktie, Life & Limb, Reservoir Dogs, Glengarry Glenross & True West. Daniel's latest film credits include The Select Fit in '04, The Night Before The Morning After in '05, Headhunting in '06 and The Bill in '07.

The less is more set design by Max Makisimovic was an appropriate setting device that added to the dramatic loneliness of the characters portrayed in this production.

The lighting by Frank McKnown and Joe Fusco was visually effective.  McKnown has lighted over 150 projects, including plays, musicals, concerts, dance, award shows, benefits, retail and restaurant spaces, and a bar mitzvah. He has been honored with design awards from Drama Logue, Backstage West, Lester Horton Dance Awards, and has been nominated for LA Drama Critics Circle and Ovation Awards.

Joe Fusco, just coming off a 2 year run with the World Premiere of the runaway musical BARK!. His credits include Bukowsical (sound design), and the World Premiere of Robert Schrock's Naked Boys Singing (Technical Director), as well as Morticians in Love, Passion of Carmen, Very Truly Yours, The Normal Heart, Cyberqueer, Gay 90's Musical, Jeff Stryker's Hard Times, End of the World Party, Maverick TV's Divian Shores and Mommie Queerest. Makisimovic, McKnown and Fusco did well to accentuate this lonely setting and provide a focus for the audience to the drama being portrayed.

It is with great enthusiasm that I recommend theatre-goers see this smart, convincing duo in a compelling production' A Must See!

'Danny & The Deep Blue Sea' has extended at The Elephant Performance Lab through July 7th.  Performances are Friday & Saturday 8:00PM.  For Reservations go to:  www.plays411.com/danny

Reviewed by M. Rutherford
Photography by Michael Gerdsmeier

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