Danny & The Deep Blue Sea Is an Actor's Fishing Expedition

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When watching shows for the purposes of reviewing, one has to be careful to keep the current production as the main focus.  But as theatre is the most alive of any type of entertainment, certain relevant circumstances sometimes sweep through the mind.  Such was the case watching Kokandy Production’s latest offering of John Patrick Shanley’s early work, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, now playing at the Athenaeum Theatre.

Competently directed by K. Hannah Friedman, this two-person drama explores how broken people can find redemption in each other after a lifetime of different types of abuse (much of which are self inflicted).    As just having seen Drury Lane’s great production of the musical Oliver!, the story of Nancy and Bill Sikes kept playing over in my mind in how the abused and abuser are able to adapt in the most horrid of situations, which put much of the 60’s musical is much clearer and different context.

In Shanley’s 1983 play (which has become a staple for the audition process) we first find Danny (Brandon Galatz) and Roberta (Jodi Kingsley) at a run down local Bronx bar where each is on the brink.   As their backstories unfold we see how both of their

pasts have so deeply damaged them that at many points it seems like death may be a better option then living.   But as Shanley does so well, even in this early piece, the humanity of the individual begins to shine through and the two find true soul mates via their commonality in each other.

Deep Blue Sea is an actor’s gift, allowing a plethora of truths to spill out during the brutal eighty minutes in which the cast has to leave it all hanging out raw on the stage.  Ms. Kingsley and Mr. Galatz are certainly up for that task.  In fact Ms. Kingsley is a bit of a revelation on the stage.  She seems to innately know the emotional bends and turns in Shanley’s dialogue.  She also brings the best out in Mr. Galatz’ Danny who is sensational in the last half hour as his character takes a drastic one-eighty and becomes the one who has to give comfort to a manic companion.

There are certain moments when the play does get away from actors, especially around the halfway point where it seems they are already thinking of their next lines instead of living in that exact moment.   Perhaps a little Meisner technique can be employed to help this, or perhaps with a few more performances in front of an audience, the timing of the middle section can flow a bit more fluidly.

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is what Chicago theatre is all about; two actors on an almost baron stage bringing out the best in each other and having the audience eating out of their hands, and along for the emotional ride.   Watching the process unfold will rarely get any better than this.

Danny and The Deep Blue Sea runs through April 28, 2013 at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2636 N. Southport Ave., Chicago.  For more information please visit www.kokandyproductions.com .  For tickets visit www.athenaeumtheatre.org or call 773.935.6875.  For calendar information, please visit www.TheatreInChicago.com