by Lynn on June 8, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Monarch Tavern, 12 Clinton St., Toronto, Ont.

Written by John Patrick Shanley

Directed by David Lafontaine

Cast: Jennifer McEwen

Justin Otto

The play is about two lost souls who meet in a bar, who spar and fight and bond. It’s a solid production.

The Story. Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is an early play of Shanley’s, written in 1984.

Roberta and Danny are two lost souls who meet in a bar. She is there alone, drinking and eating pretzels.  She lives with her parents and her teenage son. She feels their contempt. Danny is a raging man who picks fights with anyone who looks at him funny. He is drinking a pitcher of beer and wants some of Roberta’s pretzels.  This isn’t just a simple pick-up. Danny thinks he’s damaged goods and not fit for anyone let alone Roberta. She gives as good as she gets, but finds a way to calm him down and think about himself in a different way.

They’re looking for connection to another person. They are both so damaged that it’s too easy to say they are looking for love. But wild as this might seem, given the abrasive nature of both characters, looking for love in whatever form, is not so far off.

The Production. It’s very dark in the Monarch Tavern as you pick your way to your seat, I think unnecessarily dark. I can appreciate creating an atmosphere, but shouldn’t you be able to at least see your hand in front of your face?

Rows of chairs are arranged facing what looks like the stage.  I can make out a kind of set over there—a cot for a bed, a red light on the other side of a window. Just down from the bed and to the right is a high chair at a high round table. Perhaps even further to the right is another high chair facing another high table. I can’t tell if there are people sitting at these tables, because as I said, it was so dark!!

When the lights did go up Danny (Justin Otto) takes a full pitcher of beer from the bar to one of the high tables and sits, brooding, over his drink. His hair is tussled; he wears jeans and a t-shirt. His knuckles are bandaged and bloody from his recent fights.

At the other high table, with her back to him sits Roberta (Jennifer McEwen) noisily eating the pretzels or perhaps they are chips. They are crisp. She looks over her shoulder at him quickly and turns back. She’s in jeans and a halter top.

He asks for a pretzel. They banter, each with attitude, one not giving in to the other. Jennifer McEwen plays Roberta with attitude and an in-your-face-demeanor. Justin Otto plays Danny with such a chip on his shoulder you wonder how he gets his t-shirt on. You feel at any moment he could explode and do her damage. By the same token, you believe that she could slug him and knock him out. Eventually she joins his table and then she takes him home to her room. They have a wild scene in her room in which he asks her to marry him. It’s so far fetched.  So impossible to imagine. But it’s John Patrick Shanley getting his characters to think in a different way. Danny would never allow himself to get this close to another person and yet here he is. At one point she rails at him and is quite physical with her anger and he takes it. This is a man who beat people up for looking at him funny and now he is taking this behaviour from this woman as damaged as he is. They bond over their need to get rid of their anger.

Do I believe this could happen? I do because Shanley is such a gifted playwright.  His language is crunchy, it crackles with humour and hurt.  He writes about the wounded soul. And I believe it because the acting is so engaging.

It’s directed by David Lafontaine, who does good work in the indie theatre scene. He guides his actors along so that you are always unsettled in wondering what will happen next.  Will this work out? Will they kill each other? Will they fall in love? Either is possible and that’s one of the beauties of this play and this production.

Love2 Theatre Company is a new company and Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is their first show. I look forward to more.

Comment.  John Patrick Shanley is one tough playwright.  To give you an idea about Shanley, he wrote Doubt, a play about sexual child abuse and whether or not a priest in one of the Catholic schools was guilty of abusing a young boy. The woman principal in the school thinks so and goes after the priest.  To show how tough Shanley is he says he was expelled from kindergarten.  Now that’s tough. Or he could be stringing us along. I’d like to think it’s true.

Love2 Theatre Presents:

Opened: May 30, 2019.

Closes: June 8, 2019.

Running Time: 75 minutes.

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