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Review: Danny and the Deep Blue Sea

Tyler Gillespie reviews John Patrick Shanley’s compelling drama



"I think I killed a guy last night," says foul-mouthed Danny as he drinks from a pitcher of beer. "Everything hurts." He's talking to Roberta, the only other patron in the bar. The two share pretzels and then secrets in Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, presented at Cafe Istanbul by Drowning in Blue.

  Danny (Joshua Mark Sienkiewicz) has bloodied knuckles and a bruised eye from a street fight. Within a few minutes of meeting Roberta (Jamie Neumann), he tells her he is going to kill himself the following year when he turns 30. Roberta says she thinks it is a good plan. It's an intense opening, and it sets the tone for the conflicted characters.

  Written by John Patrick Shanley, the show deals with dark themes including incest and homicidal rage. The two characters are broken, disturbed people who can't help but gravitate toward each other.

  Sienkiewicz is a powerful presence onstage. Danny is brutish, and he is at times difficult to watch. He repeatedly threatens Roberta's life and slaps her face once. His character has an unbridled temper, but Sienkiewicz's acting is measured. He unleashes Danny's rage, then pulls back to show a softer side. His character is unpredictable, but the actor takes control of every move.

  Directed by Peter Jensen, the show follows a linear narrative — from bar to Roberta's bed. Both actors are dynamic and can go from screaming death threats to whispering sweet nothings.

  Roberta lives with her parents and 13-year-old son. She is divorced and seems to neglect her son, which complicates her desire for sympathy. A deep emotional pain affects her ability to function and care for another person. During her time at home, she drunkenly initiated a sex act with her father and now grapples with the aftermath. Neumann gives the brazen character a powerful range. One moment she's manic, and the next she's heartbroken and crying. In an emotional scene, Roberta says she thinks she's unworthy of forgiveness and can't get out of her father's house.

  Throughout the night, Danny and Roberta waver in their desires. At first Roberta pursues Danny, then he becomes more invested in her. Though they've just met, the two try to envision a life together.

  Danny and the Deep Blue Sea delves into difficult subjects, but this production navigates the inner feelings of two seemingly unlikable characters in a compelling and satisfying way.

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