"Danny and the Deep Blue Sea," which opened Thursday, May 30, at M&D Productions Your Theatre in North Conway, N.H., is an intense, dialogue-driven character study that, in its own way, is one of the most honest love stories you'll ever see.
Josh Lambert and Janette
Kondrat star as Danny and Roberta, a pair of deeply flawed individuals
who meet in a bar one night. They tentatively begin talking to each
other and then don't stop.
They speak in an open and exposed
manner for the first time in either of their lives. In the course of an
evening and morning together they begin the long process of healing each
The deep blue sea of the title is an obvious
metaphor for the sea of despair that these characters have been
desperately trying to keep their heads above. Each feel at any moment
they could drown.
The play, written by John Patrick Shanley, who
is best known for films like "Moonstruck" and play-turned-movie "Doubt,"
is almost a non-stop conversation that runs the emotional gamut. The
dialogue in the first scene is nearly unremittingly tense and full of
dark, traumatic secrets revealed by both characters. The second scene
adds some levity as the budding couple attempt flirtation.
break from the conversation only comes in the transition between scene
one and two: a dance/sex scene choreographed by Johnathan Pina that is
beautiful, violent, graphic and intimate. Be forewarned: there is
nudity, but it is neither exploitative nor gratuitous.
of the two leads is tremendous. Both performances are like exposed
nerves with the raw emotions of each character always on the surface
ready to explode.
Danny is always seething with anger and yet
there is a gentleness under his seemingly beastly nature. Lambert is
able to rage credibly, but the strength of his performance is the
quieter, lightly comic moments as when he compliments Roberta's nose or
when he admires a doll.
Roberta is a tormented soul who is unable
to forgive herself for a secret from her past. She refuses to allow
herself to move on, feeling that she must be punished. If no one else
will punish her then, by her logic, she must do it herself.
finds Roberta's pain in a way that doesn't feel contrived, false or
manipulative. On the surface she makes Roberta sweet if removed from her
surroundings, but this facade merely masks a simmering anger.
and Kondrat have a genuine chemistry and even though the characters
have only known each other for a few hours, the actors make their
sprouting love feel tangible and real. Most love stories are neat and
perfectly packaged. That is not the case here. Shanley shows life with
all its warts and imperfections, but also reminds that love can exist in
a cruel world.
First-time director Eric Jordan has served his
actors well and has done a wonderful job of shaping the delicate
emotional landscape of this material. The show is just barely over an
hour and that's perfect.
Jordan keeps the pacing of the dialogue
fast, which is as it should be. Shanley dialogue doesn't need space to
breathe. It needs to be compact and almost claustrophobic. These
characters feel trapped. The dialogue must feel the same, as if it is
trying to break free from the confines of the characters' minds.
everything is magically better in the conclusion, but, by the end, for
the first time these characters have hope and that in itself is a
powerful revelation for both the characters and the audience. Life is
hard, but when you find someone to stand by you "I can't do it" can
become "maybe I can."
"Danny and the Deep Blue Sea" is playing
Thursday through Saturday for the next three weeks at Your Theatre. For
more information or tickets call the box office at 662-7591.