Big-top drama

Kitchen Dog doesn't just clown around in their dazzling Glass Menagerie

The Glass Menagerie runs through June 7. Call (214) 953-1055.

Theatre Three's rehearsal-space-turned-blackbox, Theatre Too, was christened with New Theatre Company's production of John Patrick Shanley's Psycopathia Sexualis. The results were a rousing success for all involved--sell-outs for most of the performances caused the show to be extended. The Lean Theatre, another company spawned from T3 talent, offers a second helping of Shanley with their new production of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea. Lean co-founders Sharon Bunn and Thurman Moss hope that Dallas theatergoers clean their plates with as much enthusiasm for the second course.

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is an early comic drama (with an emphasis on the drama part) by the still-young playwright, screenwriter, and erstwhile filmmaker. Without giving away what director Sharon Bunn says is a "shocking secret" that lies at the play's core, we can describe it as the story of a young man (Marc Hebert) and a young woman (Nance Watkins) who strike up a conversation in a New York City bar and are propelled into a relationship where the emotional extremes of their pasts take centerstage.

"These are two extremely talented young people, and we wanted to find a vehicle to display that before they make their way to Los Angeles and New York," says Bunn, a veteran of the Dallas stage (and not a few movies and TV shows) who has worked on both coasts with her professional and private partner Moss. Both of them eventually decided to return and make theater in their native Dallas, which she very correctly points out is "a town that needs it."

"While directing (Hebert and Watkins), I was shocked at how easily they could pull emotion from inside themselves," she says. "I don't know if it's a generation gap or what, but very often young actors are afraid to express themselves emotionally in front of an older director. Marc and Nance delivered the first time I asked them to."

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, she claims, is of atypical quality for an early work by a young male playwright.

"It's difficult to find scripts written by men early in their careers that feature rounded female characters. So often, the women that these beginning playwrights create are caricatures, or just a vessel to express some part of themselves or their feelings about women in general. Both of these characters felt very real on the page. And they're able to--forgive me for choosing this word, because it's so overused--redeem themselves through love. It's a very gritty play, something that I hope people will find useful."

"Useful" is not a word you usually hear applied to theater, but it modestly sums up the agenda that Bunn and Thurman Moss bring to the work they stage in Theatre Too. Both are pragmatic about what they believe is a very utilitarian role live performance can and should play in the lives of audience members.

"In many ways, I believe that place is a church," Bunn says of the Theatre Three Quadrangle space designed by Jac Alder. "But it's also a place where people come together to look at their lives through actors, to examine problems. Many people talk about their whole lives being the theater, but I have to have family and go out to eat with friends and all that. Theater is a place to reflect on all those other things."

The work of Lean Theatre harkens to a style that she hopes to revive, once their resources expand: "We would love to stage some of those social dramas from the 1930s, but the casts are just too big; we don't have the amount of actors to fill them right now."

As far as T3's very successful new blackbox Theatre Too, Bunn admits she's thrilled. "Upstairs, we get to stage the big productions that a lot of people like. Downstairs, we get to stage the smaller, darker plays that we love."

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea opens May 21 and runs through June 6. Call (214) 871-3300 .

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