It is a cold night, but the atmosphere is warm in McInnis as the invitation of an unforgettable performance sets the mood. About 30 people sit in elevated chairs on the stage, and quiet music filters through the auditorium.
The stage is simply set with two blue blocks, three chairs, a side table holding a bride doll and a single light bulb that hangs above it all. As the house lights dim, the mood feels as solemn as the play’s subject, and silence fills the theatre. Then the action starts.
From Sept. 24-28, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, written by John Patrick Shanley, graced Eastern’s stage with its heavy and provocative presence.
Directed by Eastern Theatre’s Director in Residence, alum Liz Carlson, Danny is “the tale of two battered souls … who find each other on the verge of self-destruction yet somehow lift each other into a transformative, healing relationship.”
The play starts with Danny, junior John Schultz, and Roberta, junior Kaylee Goodwin, sitting in a bar, sipping beer and, in Roberta’s case, eating pretzels. Through the ensuing conversation, they reveal their inner pains and regrets, bearing their hurts to each other simply because they are there. They eventually come to the conclusion that only love will heal them of their aches.
They then come together in Roberta’s house. In the moon’s glow, Danny and Roberta plan their wedding, defying all of their problems and resolving to get away on “a big ship in the ocean.” But then daybreak shatters the dream, and harsh reality hits them once more. In the end, all is forgiven, and hope brings them together again.
Despite the warnings against this play, its subject is one worthy of the stage. Yes, the f-word flies quite often, and several discussions involve some sensitive subjects, but, all the same, this play deserves to be seen.
Shanley holds a mirror up to some of our deepest fears and projects them on people who, though we deny it, are very much like us.
Danny and Roberta are normal people whose lives have been run down and trampled by life and the troubles that come with it. As Danny so aptly says, “Everything hurts.”
Neither of these poor souls can escape their problems on their own and so they come together, finding solace in their own combined humanity. “What do we got?” Roberta asks – and we may very well ask the same question of ourselves.
And what do we get out of this play? At face value, we see a play that bemoans the story of two hurting people in a world trying to bring them down. With a catch in his breath, Danny says, “I’m too tired to fight everybody.”
But dig deeper and you find a tale of love between two creatures that are desperately seeking it. Although Danny cries, “I am the Beast,” trying to warn Roberta, she comes to him nonetheless, wanting nothing more than his love in return.
And when the tables turn and she screams at him to get out, “This is my house and I gotta live in it,” he returns her love and forgives her “badness.” Together, they find a happiness they didn’t have before and, finally, they can stop fighting and start living.