BWW Review: Righting Expectations in Nuance Theatre Co.'s DANNY AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA
For many people out there, it is difficult to see themselves as human beings, deserving of more than a mind ridden with incessant guilt or a suppressed hope that things may actually turn out for the better. To live day by day feeling irrevocably trapped in your head, having the ability to change but not knowing how or for what purpose.
Until one day, that possibility becomes the reality we could hardly ever see coming - a brightness that supersedes the artificial light which shines through a young woman's window night after night, offering a glimpse of what could be. Not knowing how to confront life without the cynicism it has already instilled within her, Roberta meets Danny in a Bronx dive bar where not many people find themselves - but fortunately, these two did.
Danny, who is physically battered and mentally hindered by his insecurity of the world around him, forms the kind of bond with Roberta that only they can understand - a beautiful story which becomes Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, recently presented by Nuance Theatre Co..
Directed by John DeSotelle, Nuance Theatre Co. brings John Patrick Shanley's Danny and the Deep Blue Sea to the Nubox - an intimate blackbox theater in the heart of Hell's Kitchen where (in my experience) theatrical magic always happens. Presented as an Equity stage production, DeSotelle brings two incredibly talented actors to the stage for a limited two-week run. He does so in the fashion of "close up theatre", a continued practice with the theater company in which the audience's proximity to the stage allows them to have a more personal experience - to be more engaged with what is going on around them and not simply be a traditional, distanced spectator by sitting in a large Broadway theater. In this vein, DeSotelle invites theatergoers to get a much closer look at the efforts of the Off-Off Broadway community; the work of Nuance Theatre's is an example of how wonderful the experience can be, and this recent production of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea (in all aspects) is no exception.
Within a cheerless Bronx dive bar, Roberta sits alone at a table. The darkness of both the bar and her life enshroud her, and the presence of other [conscious] patrons is nowhere to be found. In walks Danny, threatening at first glance with bandaged hands and a bruised face; he has little interest in conversation and takes a seat on the opposite side of Roberta. They gradually start speaking - him about a man he may have just pummeled to death, and she about her kid and difficult relationship with her father. Secrets are told between complete strangers who simply walked into a bar to be alone, now compelled to be there for the other. A bond is formed in just a few hours that no one else would be able to understand. It is a sort of metaphysical connection that happens when two damaged people come together to find solace - a hope (although precarious) that wouldn't be alive if these two had never met. A story about forgetting, about forgiveness and about human fault, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is an incredible tale about how infinite our possibilities are - as infinite as the sea - if we simply allow fate to happen.
To be honest, I don't think theatergoers are destined to see any other one-act with as much power as there is contained within this production: the power of grief, of how far even the minutest bit of hope can bring a person out of it, and overall the power of intense emotions clashing to create something beautiful - sort of like a supernova. If I were ever to see another production of this play, I would set Nuance Theatre's as the precedent to which I would hold it.
I adore situations (whether real or staged) that present hope as something brought out of a person's head and into reality. A hope that isn't just speculation, that doesn't stay dormant and actually comes into being with the blessing of fate to people who are not otherwise able to help themselves. This transfiguration is made that much more significant when the actors feel through every pore in their bodies - when the performance is not just that, but a beautiful story that unfolds, feeling by feeling, as the minutes pass by. This happens not just because the actors are close enough to the audience to touch, but because they know exactly what they're doing on that stage. Emotion, as easy as it is to come by within our own lives, is much harder to experience when watched; this production not only supplies it, but compels the audience to let it in. That, like the characters on stage who fight against every vulnerability they're confronted with, seeps into our souls and allows us to feel.
There is one scene in particular that really got to me. When Roberta and Danny wake up the next morning, the artificial spotlight replaced by the actual sun, the audience can just feel the hope of the previous evening - everything that was said, everything that was believed in - just die. Anyone who has ever feared waking up to reality, whether that be after a night of drinking or fearing the person you've spent the night with will soon disappear, knows this fear well. It is like the part of you that was uncharacteristically happy, that brings her best foot forward and sees a light at the end of a once darkened path, suddenly disappears. That is how strong a story and relationship these two actors build - where feelings are not just made tangible, but relatable - felt by audience members who may know all too well the emotions these actors capture so well.
So saying, I truly really appreciate the work put into this show. Maggie Alexander and Jacob Saxton become characters who we never wish to see part. Even though both have been on their own for so long, they rely on the other to keep resuscitating that hope which dwindles within them each passing day; Alexander and Saxton are pros at bringing these two (literally) to new life. Credit must also go to Stage Manager Judith Feingold, Assistant Stage Manager Karen Hoffman, Scenic and Lighting Designer Matthew Imhoff, Costume Designer Sohn Plenefisch, Choreographer Janice Orlandi, Fight Captain Emily DeSotelle and all those involved in this production. A show like this requires a certain stark quality, and everything from the costumes to the proximity of a dimly-lit stage to the audience (making everything seem as one), the perfect scene was set to make this production happen.
Danny and the Deep Blue Sea ran from December 13th - 22nd at the Nubox (at the John DeSotelle Studio), located at 754 Ninth Avenue, 4th floor. For more information about upcoming projects, please click here or call (212) 581.0188. Please also check out future events and classes offered by the DeSotelle's by clicking here.