Danny and the Deep Blue Sea – Heated swimming with Little Spoon Theatre co. (Theatre Review)
Danny and the Deep Blue Sea
At the time of publishing this critique, this performance is finished.
One of the great mysteries about love, is that what a person needs and what they can provide are often inversely proportionate to qualities in the person they desire. We have sexual attraction, emotional attraction, for a person who can heal a non physical pain. Despite our easy way of explaining this phenomena that occurs far more than it rationally should, it is a great mystery that we will intuitively seek out, via sexual attraction, a person who can touch in a way that heals us. People can hurt us too, but that makes more sense in terms of chance than the possibilities of a healing encounter. And yet we see it time and time again – we will often be drawn physically to those who can end a deep and pervasive pain inside, without our knowing that is what we seek. For centuries we have referred to this as the redemptive power of love, but love can exist without redemption, as can sex. That love is ever given the chance to redeem can be seen as the far more interesting question. It is a contradiction. You are attracted to the very person who will use your greatest vulnerability to expose your darkest secret and without any expectation, remove the pain. Is it the pain or the redemption that brings us to each other in the first place? I fear you close by, I love you far away as Nietzsche would say. But this understanding can only occur after we have taken the terrifying step of bringing someone close.
Roberta sits alone on a high chair in a bar in the Bronx, drinking her beer and whiling away the hours crushing the pretzels in her bowl. Soon, Danny comes through the door, bloodied, bruised furious with the world and ready for another fight. They eye each other off. Danny asks her for a pretzel and she responds defensively. He immediately warns her to stay away from him, because he has a propensity for violence and we know that Danny includes attacking females in his uncontrolled outbursts. But Roberta keeps talking, and Danny draws her in, closer and closer even has he warns her to stay away. We soon find out that Danny believes he may have killed a man, horribly beaten him to death the night before, and we learn that Roberta was involved in an illicit sex act that she perpetrated. These are two people so wounded by guilt and frustration that they walk through life willing pain upon themselves and those around them every day. They have not choice in the world, except to will a new day and a new kind of life for themselves in holding on to each other.
It is this idea and many others that John Patrick Shanley explores in his play Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, performed with intricate and passionate depth by Little Spoon Theatre Company, who gave us a production of Stitching earlier this year. Karli Evans is Roberta and Wade Doolan is Danny, this company again exploring the difficult depths couples reach in each other. Under Fiona Hallenan-Barker’s direction, the pair are able to reach depths of intimacy not always immediately available to performers expected to present complex relationships when they’ve just met. Their Danny and Roberta are funny, dangerous, disturbing and living outside the boundaries of a moral society. Even Roberta’s room, where they eventually end up, used to be a closet, a storage area for the accoutrements of life that are not being used. they hide away together, inside each other, but as Roberta would say in telling about a dream where she swims with whales, “It got quiet. Everybody went away. The water smoothed out. But I kept looking at the ocean. So deep and blue. And different. It was different then. ‘Cause I knew it had all them whales in it.” Once you know someone else swims in the same ocean, it can never be the same ocean again.
And still, Doolan and Evans bring something else to their roles, in that we intuitively know when each are being honest with the other and when their guard is up. The intimacy shared by Danny and Roberta is vulnerable as Shanley writes it, but even more so in the intimate setting of the small theatre at the Roxbury Hotel, in the hands of these two actors, swimming in the blue of the set and the Russian nesting doll of a room, within a room within a pub. It’s a nice idea, and a wonderful way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of such a wonderful play. My review is a little late to encourage the purchase of tickets, but given the great success of Stitching earlier in the year and now Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, Little Spoon Theatre Company is fast establishing itself as one of the best nights of theatre in Sydney.