In Bronx bar, love at first fight

John Pa­trick Shan­ley’s ‘Danny and the Deep Blue Sea’ is a ro­mance that packs a punch.

Los Angeles Times - - Calendar Theater - By Char­lotte Stoudt

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 full­force. (Danny: “Keep your hands to your­self or you could lose ’em!”)

The an­gu­lar Dir, a chainsmok­ing 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; lis- ten­ing 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.

Michael Gerdsmeier

GRACE AND GUTS: Deb­o­rah Dir and Daniel De Wel­don in “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.