Danny and the Deep Blue Sea by John Patrick Shanley is a torrent of frustration, confusion, and kindness as two socially bereft characters make an awkward attempt at finding happiness. Adrift in their drinks Danny, played by Andrew Yackel, and Roberta, Rachel Noderer, begin their night together at the bar. Snappy dialogue and an intense game of one-ups set the tone as to who is crazier. As the water of life becomes more turbulent the two characters recognize each other as a safe place to weigh anchor.
Director Justin Sines has helped shape a beautifully turbulent show. The desperation for safe harbor exuding from Yackel and Noderer is so thick I felt like I should be able to reach out and touch it. The trio has taken the time to fully understand the flow and rhythm of the dialogue, and create a wonderful melody that crescendos and decrescendos as smoothly as ship riding a wave.
Sines has clearly created an environment where in the actors trust him, and I wish he would have used that trust to go farther with the show. It bordered on safe, and a show like Danny needs to be completely unmoored and set to drift. While the dialogue had a wonderful musicality to it, it often felt like two pre-teens flirting instead of two members of society who are so socially inept that this is best they can do. Yackel, and Noderer understood the need to have someone, to not be crazy and alone, but that drive needs to be balanced. Several moments in the show, I felt Danny, or Roberta already knew the outcome, and had no more fear or concern of what may be coming.
As beautiful and grounded as the actors were in the performance, the technical elements were not. Some of this may have been my seat choice. Performed in a three-quarter thrust, I will take a seat on the side every time. In the case of Danny it was a mistake. Clearly blocked for a proscenium space, I saw the back of Danny’s head more than anything else.
The lighting design was confusing, and messy, that created strange and awkward shadows on the stage. Light color and intensity often abruptly changed. Times when I wanted so badly to be invested in the moment with the characters, I was instead pulled back by a change in light.
At the end of the show I felt as though I had been tossed around on the deep blue sea myself. Between the wonderful performances by the actors, and the confusion of tech, I felt at odds with the show. I would have liked to see some bigger risks being made by the director, pushing the cast farther, but overall I quite enjoyed what I could see of the production.
Special thanks to Justin Sines for complimentary press tickets. Danny and the Deep Blue Sea has one more performance tonight, December 12th at 8pm at Duquesne University’s Genesius Theater. Tickets and more information can be found here.