Theater Review – Danny and the Deep Blue Sea
Studio Two Theater – 09/02/12
Florida Atlantic University – Boca Raton, Florida
In the theatrical school of hard knocks, that pounding on the door you hear doesn’t come much louder or harsher than in a John Patrick Shanley play. Not one to shy away from either plots or characters that are harsh, hard-bitten and harrowing, Shanley is possibly best known for the 2008 adaptation of his dark-side-of-the-theological-dais play Doubt which starred Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Yet, it is often the lesser of an author’s works that truly scrapes the bottom of life’s barrel and it’s belly. That is what Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is all about.
Stephanie Amico (as Roberta) and John Franklin (as Danny) co-starred in this two person show that Amico directed with the aid of Sam Streich as stage manager. Set in the dingiest of dive bars imaginable, in a time that could be last week, last decade, or even last century, this is the story of two misanthropes devoid of both self-esteem and self-control. In their worlds where self-loathing is the measure of one’s worth, friendships are fantasy and love is as toxic as last night’s bottle of gin. And so it is that Amico and Franklin crash their characters head-long into one another during a twelve hour romp that could end up anywhere from the alter to the gallows.
This play is unmistakable Shanley at his best. After all, aren’t most romances based upon a girl who seeks control through incestuous relationships and a boy who isn’t certain whether or not he killed someone the night before? Perhaps I missed those attributes-for-success in the Disney World wedding planner’s guide. But given the fact that over fifty percent of the marriages in our country fail today, maybe there’s a little bit of Roberta and Danny lurking behind most modern nuptials. And to say that the degree of disturbing psycho-pathologies manifested in these two anti-protagonists was anything but overwhelming would be to underestimate the breadth and depth of talent that both Amico and Franklin portrayed during this three act devolution into disparity and deprivation. If an actors measure is their capacity to assume the least desirable in all of us as their own, then Anthony Hopkin’s Hannibal Lecter has nothing on these two formidable and budding future talents.
In final note, I would like to commend Amico on her masterful, minimalistic set design which allowed her and Franklin to gracefully convert the barroom stage into a bedroom scene via a beautifully and precisely choreographed silent segue in-between acts one and two. It was like watching an architectural ballet for the mind as the pieces and parts from the original scene were silently transformed in the foundation for the shows pending denouement.
So here’s to praising the unpraisable, portraying the unthinkable, and expressing the commonly mundane that prowls within each of our alleyways, alters and souls. Who knows, maybe one day Disney will wake up to Shanley, and Roberta and Danny could be waiting to help you plan your next fate-de-complet.