|Danny & The Deep Blue Sea 2007
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'Danny and the Deep Blue Sea' revived
John Patrick Shanley's play is a romance that packs a punch.
By Charlotte Stoudt
Special to The Times
July 13, 2007
The gin joint could be anywhere, but it happens to be a dive in the Bronx; the lovers could be anyone, but they're neighborhood types who've seen better days.
It's an old story — strangers in the night. But a writer like John Patrick Shanley can remind us that falling in love mixes terror and thrills in ways that knock you flat. Now Elephant Stage Works, in association with Volition Entertainment, has revived Shanley's irresistible 1984 two-hander, "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea."
Danny (Daniel De Weldon) is drunk and reeling from his latest fight; Roberta (Deborah Dir) is dodging single motherhood and a controlling family. The bar's closing soon, and so are their options. She checks him out, Danny asks for a pretzel, and they're off to the races. In the course of a single night, they court Catholic: confess their sins, give each other absolution and dare to imagine happiness.
Director Michael Arabian choreographs Roberta and Danny's thrash toward intimacy with a sure hand. The play is subtitled "An Apache Dance," a reference to a violent dance popular with Parisian street toughs, and the actors move through the play's emotional minefield with grace and guts, grabbing Shanley's street talk by the fistful and shoving it at each other full-force. (Danny: "Keep your hands to yourself or you could lose 'em!")
The angular Dir, a chain-smoking Modigliani, turns her self-hate inside out to disarm Danny. His aggression is familiar, a pose she knows well. "What's the matter, badass?" she challenges. "Somebody get your matches wet?"
De Weldon, effectively contained, finds an arresting stillness under Danny's bluster; listening to Dir without looking at her, he lets us hear what she's really asking for under all her protests. Their mutual surrender has real stakes — we witness his violence and hear of hers — and the performers gorgeously conjure the sudden weightless astonishment of finding themselves attached to each other.
Sure, "Sea" has too many endings, and Roberta's expurgation of a traumatic secret feels a little schematic. The play's tropes are plenty familiar: pale moons, brides in white, singing birds. Still, Shanley finds terrific humor in the fact that love may happen over and over, but when it's your turn, all bets are off. And there are few contemporary stage romances willing to shed so much blood to reveal such heart.
LA CITY BEAT
Danny and the Deep Blue Sea. John Patrick Shanley’s tale of two bitter barflies who fall into unexpected love is primarily an actors’ showcase, but director Michael Arabian uses fog and a gnashing soundtrack to establish the characters’ alienation before they speak a word. Then Deborah Dir and Daniel De Weldon bring the pungent language to life.
Danny and the Deep Blue Sea: An Apache Dance
June 20, 2007
By Dave DePino
A charming Romeo and Juliet they ain't, but Danny (Daniel DeWeldon) and Roberta (Deborah Dir), with all their rough edges and harsh characteristics, are nevertheless star-crossed lovers of a rather sweet fairy tale-make that sweet 'n' sour. As the subtitle, An Apache Dance, suggests, this is no namby-pamby cakewalk down the aisle.
A chance meeting at a Bronx dive brings these two misfits together over a bowl of pretzels and a pitcher of beer. What appears at first to be round one of a knock-down, drag-out match between two streetwise heavies becomes a hookup, pure and simple. The surprise is what comes after the sex: an honest, clumsy cry for what could otherwise be described as nothing less than romance, the attempt at which is both humorous and touching.
John Patrick Shanley has written his characters as fairly stereotypical, leaving it up to the actors and director to make them real and interesting. With this production, we can say mission accomplished. DeWeldon's Danny is a frazzled man, going through life with a hair trigger, ready to blow away anyone and everyone in his way. The actor cautiously keeps Danny away from giving in too easily or quickly to new feelings. When he gives us a glimpse inside, the bear becomes a teddy bear. DeWeldon's performance is wonderfully layered, peeling Danny's years of hurt away quite painfully. Dir's Roberta is filled not only with loneliness but also with unfathomable guilt, which she shares for the first time, with Danny. She gives Roberta many different dimensions as a woman desperately reaching out and seeking forgiveness. Michael Arabian's direction keeps everything in perfect balance-the drama from spilling into melodrama-targeting the humor to help us like this couple and laugh with them, not at them.
Presented by Elephant Stage Works in association with Volition Entertainment Productions at the Elephant Performance Lab,
by James Scarborough
What the Butler Saw:
"Danny and the Deep Blue Sea,"
Elephant Theatre, Hollywood, CA
Deborah Dir - Daniel De Weldon
Wrenching and purgative, John Patrick Shanley’s two-person Danny & the Deep Blue Sea, directed by Michael Arabian for the Elephant Theatre, shows how anyone, anywhere, anytime can be redeemed.
How, once circumstance strips us down to our most Darwinian selves, we seek and hopefully find consolation in human connections, thus belying the Hallmark platitude that opposites attract.
First Arabian sets the stage for what has to be atoned. It’s a lulu.
He gets the most out of a minimalist stage: the opening act bar, two small, round tables and two round chairs, perfectly describes a Venn Diagram of how two discrete universes can become one.
Two more excoriating isolations you could never encounter: Roberta (Deborah Dir), meets Danny (Daniel De Weldon) in a Bronx bar.
Both wax feral, both wear emotional wounds, both bear unbearable sorrow.
He thinks he’s just killed someone with his bare fists (he could have – welts, contusions, mangled hand, facial ticks).
She has to just get out of the house, away from her parents, her teenage son, and a secret that if not managed would continue to burble like a tar pit bubble.
Stage set, let the atoning begin.
Because even the most uncultivated of us seek packs of our own ilk, Roberta and Danny meld into a miasma of despair that, through stages of raw violence, unveiled gawkiness, and guttural ejaculations of affection, effects something that approaches love.
Dir and De Weldon were magnificent in their tentative attempts of intimacy and tenderness; in their bumbling stray dog get-to-know-each-other sex to their Bukoskian terms of endearment; in their eager satisfaction of their immediate needs (analgesic alcohol, analgesic sex) to imaginative plans for a future together: a white wedding, a place of their own that she can decorate, hope and stability.
Dir was magnificent as she peeled away her layers of pain like she was peeling the successively tender (and sweeter) layers of an onion with a dull knife. At first we know her from a distance, the way you’re not sure how to deal with an approaching homeless person because, though you feel pity, you’re not sure how she’ll smell.
Then we get to care for her. As her story unfolded she became more and more familiar, more and more caring, more and more vulnerable, a condition she didn’t like – witness her meltdown near the end – but one to which she instinctively gravitated.
Initially and damn effectively, De Weldon was a blunt force instrument, to borrow the phrase with which M labeled Daniel Craig’s newly minted 007 Bond.
His transformation (his fricative cursing warbled into marbled words of love) into a teensy weensy less blunt force husband willing to assume accountability for his nasty propensity towards violence, for the exorcism of Roberta’s demons, for the rewriting of his life’s script, was equally magnificent.
LASplash.com: Los Angeles Performances
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.
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.
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.
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
Published Jun 7, 2007
© Copyright 2003-2004 by LA Splash.com
Danny and the Deep Blue Sea
Photo by Michael Gerdsmeier
Review By Mary E. Montoro
Lysander quoted in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “the course of true never did run smooth.” The lovelorn suitor might have been thinking of Danny and Roberta from Danny & the Deep Blue Sea, written by the Tony Award-winning playwright Patrick Shanley. He isn’t a stranger to pushing the truth, no matter how ugly or wicked, right in your face, forcing you to see it, feel it, and accept the fallout. He made the possibility of sexual abuse into fact in Doubt and placed racism in an integrated army in the south in Defiance. Shanley’s blatant honesty will irritate some, but it makes for tasty conversation over coffee afterwards. He continues with his fascination for the letter D in this offering. Danny is the rebellious opposite of every saccharine love story ever told on stage and screen. He is anything but the ideal, sophisticated, well-versed Romeo of any woman’s dream. Roberta is no damsel in distress looking for her knight in shining armor either. These people have damage instilled so deep that explosives couldn’t break through. In order to survive and make it together, a lot of the their hidden demons must be released, and it isn't easy.
At the start of the play, Danny walks into a dimly lit bar in New York beaten up from a fight. He pours beer on a wound from his hand which captures Roberta’s attention at the next table. She’s downing her beer and chain smoking. At first sight, they show self-animosity and project unhappiness at the unforgivable world that that won’t give them a break. From the beginning, the tension starts. Danny doesn’t want to talk about how he might have killed the guy he fought with, but he can’t keep his mouth shut. In fairness, Roberta eggs Danny on to talk so she can discuss what’s troubling her. Every time Danny wants to stop, Roberta pushes his buttons, and they end up in a profound conversation.
Roberta is unhappy living at home with her toxic parents and troubled son. He recently broke his engagement to a neurotic girlfriend. Roberta defines herself as crazy and wants to ‘get out of her head.’
Danny is known at work as The Beast. They certainly aren't the ideal couple commonly portrayed in love stories. Instead it’s a real depiction of two desperate and lost souls trying to rise from being fixed at the bottom of life’s ladder.
The addendum to the play’s title reads An Apache Dance, which the program explains as "a violent dance for two people." This truly defines the deadly tango Roberta and Danny do with each other. However, Shanley doesn't leave his two souls completely without a conscience. Both eventually let their guards down and envelop themselves in the bitter sweetness of one another. Danny no longer wants be considered the Beast, and Roberta is in urgent need of forgiveness for her past sins.
Actors Deborah Dir and Daniel De Weldon give convincing and memorable performances as Roberta and Danny. Dir plays her role with vulnerability but can still kick Danny’s ass. As Roberta, she’s reaching out for a connection, where Danny fights it but gives in. De Weldon is a reminder of the Brando's Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. He's all muscle and bite, but, in this case, with a deep wide void aching to be filled with humanity. As Roberta, Dir challenges him, and De Weldon fights back with the same zeal.
Dir and De Weldon give excellent performances, giving their characters heart and believability. Shanley provides the therapy they need to help themselves heal.
Danny and the Deep Blue Sea plays at The Elephant Performance Lab, 1076 N. Lillian Way, Hollywood, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. until Saturday, July 7. For tickets call (323) 960-7753 or reserve online at www.plays411.com/danny.
KCLA Radio, American Radio Network
Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is a two person, two act play written by John Patrick Shanley in 1985. (Shandley has gone on to write movies) Directed by Michael Arabian and produced by Sonja Hanley. Set amidst the alienated lower class-ethnic Italians of the Bronx, Roberta (Deborah Dir) meets Danny (Daniel de Weldon) at a bar. He is recovering from a meaningless street fight, and can not remember whether the other participant was alive or dead at the end. She is in self-imposed penance for a transgression that happened a decade or more before.
During the first act Ms. Dir and Mr. de Weldon expose their characters' weaknesses and insularity. They are such products of their limited environment that neither have ever seen the sea, and only Danny has ever been out of New York, and that was at a juvenile detention facility in rural upstate New York.
In the second act Danny and Roberta attempt to connect with each other on an emotional level, exposing to the audience, if not themselves the constrictions of their lives by the paucity of there dreams of a future together.
The acting is wonderfully evocative of the time and place, the characters come alive with all their quirks, faults, and hopes. This reviewer started off not liking either of the characters, and by the end of the play actually had empathy for them and hopes that their dreams might come true.
This reviewer recommends Danny and the Deep Blue Sea for its convincing portrait and brilliant acting of two unique characters.
Review by Laurie Senit
" Deborah Dir & Daniel DeWeldon's...live-wire performances turned out to be indelible manifestations of what Rydell and Landau were struggling to articulate about theater being one of the last stands against a culture that values us more for what we can buy than what we can be. Here was the art and craft of being....volatile intimacy... impressive technique...defining their roles with precision"
Stephen Leigh Morris
In a city where most plays run 6 weeks or less, The Elephant Theater’s production of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, John Patrick Shanley’s unexpected love story of two very lost and damaged souls, has become a real L.A. theater phenomenon. Recipient of the very hard-to-get L.A. Times “Critics Choice,” Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, now in its fifth sold-out month, has been extended yet again, through October. Last night I found out why.
The theater is quite dark when we enter, and filled with artificial smoke, only slightly illuminated by a dim blue light reflected in the haze. We see two small round bar tables several yards apart on the stage, and nothing else. Otherworldly, aquatic-sounding music plays in the background. Since the pre-show announcements have already been made as we waited in the lobby, there is no other sound to break the mood. Then, suddenly, the theater is plunged into total darkness. A match is lit on stage, and then a candle in a round red jar illuminates a woman’s face. She is smoking. The lights come up, two stark spots shining directly from stage left. A man enters with a pitcher of beer and a beer glass. He starts to fill the glass, then pours the beer over his hands instead, the beer spilling on the floor. We know that are definitely in for something different tonight.
Danny is a violent man with a dark soul. “I think I killed this guy last night,” he tells Roberta. “Everything hurts and the only time it stops is when I’m hitting on somebody.” Danny is just 29, but says he wants to die when he turns 30. He is known as “the Beast.”
Roberta is 31, and equally lost. Pregnant at 18, she has a screwed-up 13-year- old son and layers of guilt from an incestuous relationship that torments her still. Though she is still living with her parents, she tells Danny “You got no home,
just like me.”
What starts out as verbal sparring between a man and a woman in a bar develops into something much more after they return to Roberta’s room and make love. Danny and the Deep Blue Sea transforms before our eyes into one of the most powerful and suspenseful love stories I’ve seen. At first, Danny and Roberta almost repel us. They’re the kind of people we avert our eyes from if we happen to walk past them. By the end of the play, we have become so invested in their salvation that we are leaning forward, on the edge of our seats, praying for these two losers to find deliverance in each other’s arms. This is very powerful stuff indeed.
For Danny and the Deep Blue Sea to work, it must have two consummate actors in the starring roles, and this production most certainly does. Deborah Dir and Daniel De Weldon are both members of the legendary Actors’ Studio, and it shows. Dir creates a rough, even vulgar Roberta, which makes her
reluctant softening all the more powerful. In her heavy New York accent and with her eyes showing many layers of pain (“Don’t touch me. It burns,” she tells Danny), Dir commands the stage with an electric presence. De Weldon is every bit her equal. With a James Dean look and intensity, he creates a Danny
whose violence is a defense against loneliness, and as his hardness begins to melt, De Weldon accomplishes the miraculous. He makes Danny heroic. We are rooting, even praying for him not to give up on Roberta. I haven’t felt this
much suspense in a theater since Twelve Angry Men.
Michael Arabian’s direction is nothing short of brilliant. This is clearly a director with a vision, and it shows in his many directorial choices. He is aided by some of the finest set, lighting, and sound design you’ll see in L.A. theater. I loved the “deep blue sea” motifs of Max Maksimovic’s Roberta’s messy bedroom set. The walls are cut to resemble a large sea shell, and there’s a fishing net hanging above her bed. Frank McKown and Joe Fusco’s magnificent lighting of the first act has already been described. In Act 2, it is equally fine—at first, the dimly lit lovemaking, and a later scene where the lights fade to black with
only a single candle burning in the dark. The background music is loud and striking, evoking both the sea metaphor and the violence of the two characters.
This is a production that makes a theatergoer proud to call L.A. his home. That audiences have flocked to the theater week after week, spurred on by rave reviews and perhaps even more so by word of mouth, proves that theatrical miracles do indeed happen in this town. If, like me, you’ve managed to miss Danny and the Deep Blue Sea up until now, do yourself a favor and see this
show. You’ll find out what all the talk has been about.
Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90038 Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 Through October 7 PLAYS411.com/323-960-7753
THE TICKET STUB
Danny & The Deep Blue Sea
You might quibble with some of the details of the plot but Danny & The Deep Blue Sea resonates on a primal level, tapping into the isolated, desparate and hopeless feelings that can engulf sensitive people in todays world. Roberta and Danny meet in a bar, both close to the end of their emotional rope. They are terrified but very needy. A combustion is inevitable.
The smoky ambience and music when you enter the theater creates the mood that allows the power of the actors, Deborah Dir and Daniel De Weldon, to tap into the desparado that lives deep within many of us. Their chemistry is hungry, crazy and compelling, making it possible to experience the Danny and Roberta that exists in many men and women who today are still looking for love and connection with the opposite sex .. Go and let yourself go!
Herb Goldberg for THE TICKET STUB