Performances of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea are in their final week, with shows running April 25-28. More information and tickets can be found here or at 773-935-6875.
The first production of Kokandy Production’s first two-show season, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, provides an intense display of the turmoil and catharsis of two very troubled people who meet at a bar. The producer of this show, Scot T. Kokandy, described Danny and the other half of the season The Last Five Years, as productions that “artfully intertwine the intricacies of relationships, for better and worse, [and explore] the hope of forgiveness and redemption in love.”
But Danny and the Deep Blue Sea certainly does not start off looking like such a redemptive story. In fact, throughout much of the play an audience member might feel like a voyeur witnessing the unraveling of two people who are, quite frankly, pretty fucked up.
The play begins with the sole characters, Danny and Roberta, each sitting alone drinking at a bar, represented on stage only by a few chairs and two tables that looked like they’ve been wiped down with bleach water about 100 times too many and a pale stench of beer that hangs in the air (which may have been from the beers on stage or among the audience). Their interaction is instigated when Danny asks Roberta—played by Brandon Galatz and Jodi Kingsley, respectively—if he could have some of her pretzels, which after a small verbal skirmish, she hands over to him, smiling maliciously to herself because she had been licking the salt off those pretzels since before he arrived. Seemingly out of boredom, Roberta continues talking to Danny, prying him on what his did to his hand (which is wrapped up) and what happened to his face (which has a cut on it), which Danny does not take kindly to, but for some reason allows their conversation to continue, retaliating with questions of his own.
The stage for this play is appropriately snug, emphasizing the two characters claustrophobia in their own bodies and lives. Very early on, it is clear that Danny is a man who is always on edge, ready to pounce and fight anyone and everyone who even so much as looks at him the wrong way—even if it means getting his ass kicked or getting out of control on someone. He suffers from what appear to be panic attacks, in which he is deathly afraid that his heart is going to give out on him, his own body killing him like it did his old man. His outbursts and frantic yet childish disposition are starkly contrasted with Roberta’s outward appearance of maturity and nonchalance that hides the regret and self-loathing she always carries with her.
Though their conversation is more antagonistic than friendly, the two characters seems oddly drawn to each other—or perhaps merely lost and jaded enough to listen and chat with a random person at the local watering hole. (“I don’t know no one no more,” Danny replies to Roberta asking him about his life and friends. “I’m lonely” Roberta replies to Danny asking her why she suddenly asks him to go home with her.) Their nosy, adverse exchange abruptly becomes severe when their starvation for conversation and human interaction leads them to casually divulging their deepest secrets to one another. From there, their informal talk becomes something deeper and perhaps even more intimate: but is this a line they wish to cross, or would they prefer to try to forget about it?
Now, a conversation between two obviously screwed-up people might sounds like an eventual snoozefest, but the character development and authentic chemistry of the actors make Danny and the Deep Blue Sea an engrossing if not at times an excruciating story. The neurosis, weight of the past, shame and regrettable actions of the characters have are things that every human has experienced. For a lack of a better way to put it, Danny and Roberta (who presumably is the Deep Blue Sea of the play’s title) are fucked up in a real way. This is refreshing at a time when way too many characters are dysfunctional for no reason other than cheap laughs or shock value. Their lines are so genuinely delivered and their emotional oscillations are made palpable with the excellent acting by Jodi Kingsley and Brandon Galatz, which could have very easily been overblown but instead was explosive and intimate at all the right moments.
Amidst all the hurt that Danny and Roberta endure are hopes that seem all at once simple and impossible, foreign and innate; like a pipe dream that’s already in their grasp. Even if we may not be (or think ourselves) as messed up as they, you will find it hard not to relate to Danny and the Deep Blue Sea. Even if we’re not as replete with pain as the play’s two damaged characters’, the need for forgiveness and release in order to survive and stay sane is universal.