Danny and the Deep Blue Sea
At Pacific Theatre until Feb. 4
Tickets: 604-731-5518, pacifictheatre.org
Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is the kind of show that leaves you wondering, How do performers do a show like this night after night and not fall apart?
Lori Triolo is Roberta, a lonely, divorced mother of a 13-year-old son (whom we do not see.) Usually so chic and foxy, Triolo is barely recognizable in this role: her hair is ragged and looks like creepy, crawly things live in that tangle of red. Her face is constantly screwing and unscrewing. She sniffs, wipes the beer foam off her mouth with the back of her hand. Roberta is a deeply damaged 31-year-old whose skin Triolo climbs right into.
Aleks Paunovic is angry, hair-triggered Danny who starts a fight at the slightest provocation. Is he lookin at me? is enough to set him off. Paunovic is a big, muscular Danny who can damn near strangle Roberta but the next moment can fold, sobbing, into her arms.
Danny and Roberta are damaged goods. There is a whiff of voyeurism here (how poor down-and-outers live and love) as in some other early John Patrick Shanley plays, like Savage in Limbo, but the dialogue sounds so authentic and the performances here so stellar, that so what? Souls like these do exist; most of us just dont know them.
Roberta meets Danny in an empty bar. Shes into her cups when he comes in, having just beaten a guypossibly to death. She strikes up a conversation; hes resistant but since neither of them has anything to lose, they start sharing secrets. Hers is so devastating it has destroyed her; shed be happy if Danny did strangle her and put her out of her misery. His is more an accumulation of humiliations; co-workers at the trucking firm where he sometimes works exclude him and refer to him as The Beast. Hes an outsider.
Directed by Jason Goode for Pacific Theatre and Annunciation Pictures, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea comes with a warning: sex, street language and violencenot Pacific Theatres usual fare. And yet, its all about love and redemption and these certainly fit into Pacific Theatres mission.
The play has an interesting turning of tables: at first it is Roberta who shelters Danny, taking him home with her to the bedroom in the house she shares with her mother (crazy dishrag), father (whom shed like to stab 50 times in the face) and screwed up son. One big happy family.
What follows is one of the sweetest, most touching love scenes ever, watched over by a big light (like a full moon every night) on the neighbours pigeon coop. Its a kind of Downtown Eastside Romeo and Juliet bedroom scene. Roberta asks Danny to be romantic and after a great struggle, he comes up with a hesitant, Youre good lookin but proceeds to say she has a nice nose that says hello to her chin. Once he gets going, theyre no stopping him. Your mouth. Its, its beautiful like a flower in your face.
But come morning, with the chirping of birds, Roberta regresses, the tables turn and it is Danny who has to save Roberta.
Clutching at straws, do they have a hope in hell? Maybe. Maybe not. But we wish them a better outcome than Shakespeares much younger lovers. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, they just might make it. They might even, says Danny, buy a lamp. And if these two can break through, perhaps playwright Shanley is suggesting theres hope for the rest of us.
Brutal and tender, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is riveting theatre made even more so by Triolo and Paunovics powerful performances. Hard to imagine them going to their respective homes afterwards, having a bowl of soup and checking their email.
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