Anthony J. Piccione
New York Critic
In terms of contemporary playwrights, John Patrick Shanley is arguably one of the finest, in terms of his ability to constantly write gritty, realistic dramas that explore the human condition and moral dilemmas in an in-depth way on a very human level. Among his works that seems to have been somewhat underrated, however, is his early tragic romance Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, set in 1983 when the play was originally produced, and now, revived in 2018 in the form of this latest indie theatre production.
This compelling and intimate drama tells the story of two broken souls with a dark past: Roberta (portrayed by Lisa Fernandez) is a single mother with a grudge against her perverted father, while Danny (portrayed by Brian Patrick Murphy) struggles with health problems – both physical and mental – it the point where he frequently feels on the verge of a heart attack. Over the course of the play, the two gradually move toward an overnight encounter that is ultimately just as ultimately just as romantic as it is sexual, however, misunderstandings between what happened that night lead to problems between the two toward the climax of the play.
Under the direction of Aimee Fortier, the play is staged wonderfully in the Under St. Marks Theatre, leaving the audience with the same feeling of darkness and intensity that this play demands…and the same feelings which the lead characters themselves clearly feel throughout the play’s 90 minute run time. The set design is also superb, as the beginning of the play perfectly captures the atmosphere of an NYC bar at night, complete with the real neon sign in the background, while by the time we reach the 2nd half of the play, it’s easy to forget that you’re anywhere other than a bedroom in a neighborhood in the Bronx.
However, it’s the two-person cast of this production that truly makes it as heartbreaking and poignant as it is, as both Ms. Fernandez and Mr. Murphy display a commitment to their roles that shows through the vivid emotions they display. It takes a gifted duo of actors to capture both the emotional and psychological complexity of such clearly damaged individuals such as these two characters, yet it seems they’ve achieved exactly that.
This play is clearly one that deserves to be produced more frequently than it was been, which is not something I find myself saying too often about revivals, but this show – both in terms of the writing and the acting – is easily one of the best revivals of an older work I can remember seeing in a long time. There are still a number of performances left, so the next time you find yourself in St. Marks Place, consider stopping by and seeing this very powerful piece.
“Danny and the Deep Blue Sea” runs at Under St. Marks Theatre from October 18th-November 4th. For more information, please visit www.dannyandthedeepbluesea.brownpapertickets.com.