Saturday, July 8, 2017

Danny and The Deep Blue Sea by John Patrick Shanley


By Joe Straw

An Apache Dance is a violent dance for two people, originated by the Parisian Apaches.  Parisian Apaches are gangsters or ruffians. – A definition from the play.

(Apache is pronounced ah-Pahse)

This play is emotionally real, but does not take place in a realistic world.   Only those scenic elements necessary to the action should be on stage.  Only those areas that are played in should be lit. – The Style from the play.

The Rainbow Theater Company presents Danny and the Deep Blue Sea written by John Patrick Shanley, directed by Carl Weathers, and produced by Henry Jaglom, at the Edgemar Center for the Arts through September 10, 2017.

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea by John Patrick Shanley is a wonderful play with solid performances by Tanna Federick (Roberta) and Robert Standley (Danny).  Carl Weathers (you will remember him as Apollo Creed from the Rocky films) has a critical eye that propels this version of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea into a proficient, remarkable, and pleasing night of theatre.  

Shanley, the writer, describes the play as an Apache dance. The characters bring their own strengths to the metaphorical dance floor, each pushing and pulling, twirling, wrist locking, and pulsating for a kind of self-preservation.  But rather than a physical dance, this is an emotionally charged verbal dance between two licentious characters. The dialogue is not overtly simple.  The two characters hold truths that have an underlying deeper meaning as they battle for position. Shanley leaves enough ambiguity in the play for the performers and director to make their own solid creative choices.

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is a one-act play in three scenes. 

Roberta (Tanna Frederick) seemed a little bored; her attenuated body was slouched over her table and her face was almost in the red pretzel basket.  She was slightly drunk wasting away in a lonely, tight fitting, bar in the Bronx.

Danny (Robert Standley) muscled his way past Roberta, making sure his backside bumped her chair. He dropped his empty beer mug on the table and it rolled like a dancer in pirouette.  Not satisfied that he got Roberta’s attention, he slammed the pitcher of beer down on the table.  The undulating waves of foam sloshed the side of the pitcher and Danny, eyeing Roberta, slowly turned his compass, bent his knees, and straddled his seat in her direction.

Danny is battered.  Below his left eye is a deep gash and his right hand is wrapped in a bloody bandage.  

“How about a pretzel?” – Danny

“No.  They’re mine.” – Roberta

Unbeknownst to either one, the Apache dance has begun. There is a sudden awareness from Roberta as she, at first, hides from Danny but then openly regards Danny, swinging in his direction, revealing herself as an appealing but dangerous counterpart, and someone who could handle his every nuance.

Later, in a moment of irremediable idleness, and as an act to move toward closeness, Roberta asks Danny about a girlfriend.

“You gotta friend, you know, a girlfriend? – Roberta

“No.” – Danny

“No?” – Roberta

“We broke up.” – Danny

That must be a relief to Roberta who is testing his sexual predilection. Danny says he broke up with his Italian girlfriend. Roberta likes that, especially since she’s looking, divorced, and a mother of a 13-year-old son with problems.

They are both stag, cornered in a sleazy bar, and breathing in abject loneliness.   

Roberta, opening her life, says she’s got some serious issues with her father and would liked to stab him fifty times in the face.  There is a tense contraction in her being that is demonstrative and foreshadows more to come.

But this doesn’t seem to faze Danny; to one up her, he says that he might have killed a guy in a fight. He is extremely ambiguous describing that night, something about looking for twenty dollars and needing to take care of the two men.   

They move closer, a verbal spiral about whose father was the worst until Danny offers Roberta some of his beer.

He lunges toward her pouring the beer with haste and his certain brand of delicacy. It is a release of sorts as Danny goes back to his table.

“You waiting for somebody?” – Roberta

“No.” – Danny

“Me neither.” – Roberta  

Roberta finds out that Danny has not been to jail. The guy can’t be that bad if he’s never been incarcerated so Roberta shimmies up to his table but Danny abhors her moves. A jarring back and forth ensues, a verbal flea slide, until a dramatic isolation halts the conversation with a confession about her father.

Roberta needs this night to be a release or catharsis and Danny wants to further his boundaries in a meaningful relationship.

Spoiler alert: If you are intending to go see this grand production, do not continue reading the rest of this blog entry. 

Robert Standley gives the character of Danny substance, strong physical attributes, and an emotional being that is living in the now—it is a terrific performance. Still he could add to the character. Danny’s masculinity is called into question on a number of occasions—doubts about making love “I can’t do that”, playing with dolls, “I wanted to be the bride,” and being called a “beefcake faggot.” Inner doubt plays well with this character, after all he is still living at home, with his mother.  These are all elements that take the character to another dimension. In the beginning of the second scene, they have just finished making love and that must be visible, or manifest itself in some perceptible way.  Also, the second scene is still part of the dance, still dangerous, a focused back and forth, but nevertheless a coming together.  The focus should be just as intense and not waiver.  All are just minor things because Standley overall gives an outstanding performance.

Tanna Frederick is equally enticing as Roberta.  Roberta is alone, strong, and needing a validation before the night ends. The opening could be strengthened—being bored and slightly drunk does not give the momentum that this particular character needs on this night.  The first “All right” needs strength, a show of force, and the willingness to engage because that is where this character is going. Roberta can never physically lose sight of her partner. The relationship requires a supreme engagement, physically, emotionally, and mentally. The slap on the arm in the second scene is not enough to test him, to move him out of the house, and to find out what kind of man he is. It must mean something and be more dramatic.  Minor things aside, Frederick is one of the most appealing actors working in Hollywood today.  She is a master of the intangibles, and a reason for going to the theatre, and in particular, this play.

Carl Weathers has a strong sense of craft and a flair for the dramatic. His theatrical acumen was present on this night.  And, one was delighted that Weathers is not just a handsome face, but also a man with a convincing theatrical core.  Weathers creates his own official stamp on this presentation. He is strong in his craft revealing much, giving away little, and generously giving the characters strength.  It is a grand theatrical outing and one that breathes extraordinary life in this production.   

Tanna Frederick and Lauren Beck were the producers of this event for the Rainbow Theatre Company.

The Sound Designer was Christopher Moscatiello. 

The Set Designer was Mark Kanieff and even though the black box theatre was small, less space would have heighten the relationship.  Still, there were some very clever things done to turn a bar into Roberta’s closet bedroom.

The Stage Manager was Jennifer Palumbo and the Lighting Designer was Derrick McDaniel.

Other members of this crew are as follows:

Cristina Carrillo-Dono – Assistant Stage Manager
Joseph Williams – Production Coordinator
Adrian Carr – Poster Design

Run! Run! Run! And take a barfly, someone you’ve had your eye on for sometime, just to break the ice.

RESRERVATIONS: (310) 392-7327.


  1. Enjoyed this write-up of "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea," Joe, very much. Wonderful clear description, I want to see this production, hope it's up a long time.