Robert Massimi. “Danny and the Blue Sea” is complicated. It has a minimal stage, it has very good acting but it also has a so-so plot. “Danny” would be recommended to all aspiring actors, they’re that good. The plot, however, just does not add up. The show is about two people who meet in a bar, Danny (Jonathan Crimenti) and Roberta (Hannah Beck). Danny is anti social, he spends most night in fist fights. He even believes he killed a man at a party the previous night. He is devoid of any feelings toward his mother, people he meets or people he works with. Dubbed “The Beast” by his fellow workers in a trucking company, he is an out cast everywhere. He keeps to himself more by societies aloofness towards him rather then by his wishes. We think this as an audience, writer John Patrick Shanley does not make this clear.
The problem I had with this play is the story line. Unlike a movie critic who watches the movie and determines the movie as is whether it is believable or not, a Theater Critic watches the performance then makes an instant judgement as to how believable it is. The reason for this is that it a live performance. It is just not believable either when the play was written, (!983), or now. To have two broken people meet at a bar randomly, and talk about love and spending the rest of their lives together is truly nuts. Put on top of that they are both a little off kilter and it becomes a convoluted mess.
The lighting by Benjamin Ehrenreich is nothing out of the ordinary. Common colors keep the pace of two common people. The lights do not stand out because the characters in their lives don’t stand out. The two are put on this earth with all their flaws. They are meant to just go through the motions, to be innocuous in this life.
Debbi Hobson’s costumes are extraordinary. From Danny’s bruises, to his cut up hands, Hobson puts forth a great costume menagerie. Without good costumes this play does not work. We need to see Roberta in that outfit, replete with the back tatt to see what she is really like. Her costume let’s us know almost immediately what she is like. As we move on, we she just what has bothered her for all these years and it is dark, very grotesquely dark. We hear how she hates her parents, sees her son that she had at eighteen, as a freak. She too is anti social, with only one friend who is now barely that, she holds onto her shattered life, barely. Hobson portrays Roberta magnificently.
The Direction is also a plus for this show, Peter Allas does on outstanding job in moving both characters around this small stage, in this intimate black box theater. We fear Danny, we worry about Robertas safety and we relish the playfulness that Allas gives us. With a weak script, Allas pulls double duty in directing the characters and making them believable in what is an unbelievable story. Allas continually keeps us on edge. The audience just does not know what is coming next and that is what kept the audience from leaving, (the show is only 80 minutes long).
John Patrick Shanley, who has written great pieces such as “Doubt” and “Moonstruck” has laid an egg with this one. It is certainly not one of his better pieces of work. The writing here is not consistent with that of his work “Doubt”. In “Doubt” you had a well laid out body of work, the conflict of Priest and Nun. In “Danny”, you start with two people who would never get together. Even though Roberta is desperate for affection, Danny is anti social. In a matter of 20 minutes he is deeply in love and planning his wedding with Roberta. If Shanley made him less violent at the beginning, then maybe we could believe it as we wanted to believe it, but to no avail. In his work “Moonstruck”, we see a family, their troubles, their wants and wishes. In “Danny”, we see two people whom we cannot figure out from beginning to end. Roberta who wants love badly tells Danny in the morning that it could never work. The night before she was out in a bar looking for someone who could change her life. When Danny comes along, albeit, a walking disaster, she falls in love,(or does she), then dismisses him the very next day. The other thing that did not figure was that you take a basic chaulkladite and turn him into a human in a short period of time. In the morning he is begging to get married? People with anti social behavioral problems don’t often do this.
“Danny and the Deep Blue Sea” was blessed with these two fine actors. Both very believable and both very talented in the roles they played. From the hostility to the playfulness to telling their sad stories, both keep the play alive. Without both playing believable performances, audience members were willing to give the play the benefit of the doubt.
With all the great theater in New York City right now this is certainly one you could miss. The acting with standing, it is not a well written play. The play is not believable nor interesting, it does not give us much. We keep searching for what Danny wants, we keep searching for what Roberta wants. We get a romance, then we don’t. The play adds up to nothing as far as a play with any meaning or a play that let’s us walk away with anything.