By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Roberta and Danny are like that, too. He has a violent streak and confesses that he might have killed a guy in a bar fight. Sporting a black eye and badly bruised knuckles, he tells Roberta what he believes to be the source of his pain: "Everybody makes me mad." She has a terrible secret, too. Revealing it, she thinks, would keep anyone from really loving her.
Forgiveness is in order and how they get to it is the soul of this deeply moving and surprisingly funny little play, which Shanley wrote in the early 1980s (his latest, Doubt, earned him the Pulitzer and is still running on Broadway). There are scenes in Danny and the Deep Blue Sea that hearken back to Paddy Chayefsky's Marty, and you may be reminded of Terrence McNally's Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, although Danny came before that one.
With Danny and Roberta, they may be crazy as bedbugs and more than a little dull-witted, but you want them to work it out. She aches for romance and a teensy slice of happiness. Even in her shabby attic, she's assigned a neighbor's security light the role of perpetually full moon. Danny, poor fellow, is like that pound dog that snarls because previous owners kicked him around. He doesn't trust tenderness because he's never been on the receiving end of it. You can see where this is going.
Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is a lovely piece of work made all the lovelier by the actors in it and the precise direction by Susan Sargeant. Heather Henry and Clay Yocum (making his debut with WingSpan) inhabit their characters with such raw honesty that watching them feels like an invasion of their privacy. Opening night found them rushing early moments of the bar scene. They could afford to slow down and allow the occasional pause as Danny and Roberta sip their beers and size each other up. The audience is with them from moment one. But that's a minor nitpick. Later on, in the bedroom scene, they relax and pace the ebbs and flows just about perfectly. The climax of the play is a grabber that had some of us reaching for hankies.
Really great acting is reason enough to go to the theater. And a good play that runs only 65 minutes makes you leave wanting more. You'll certainly want to see more of Yocum, who looks a bit like TV actor Michael Chikliss, all brawn and baldheaded. Henry is an unconventional beauty, playing against her dark prettiness the way the young Shelley Winters used to. They are intense and intensely talented, these two, and very, very sexy.