By John Patrick Shanley; Directed by Pat Diamond
Produced by spit&vigor
Off Off Broadway, Play Revival
Runs through 12.19.15
Under St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place
by Mateus Ciucci Ferreira on 12.7.15
Adam Belvo and Sara Fellini in Danny and The Deep Blue Sea.
BOTTOM LINE: Two battered souls, adrift in life, casually find each other and unite in search of the smallest parcel of hope.
Two wooden tables, a few chairs, pretzels, beer and a woman sitting in silence with her eyes fixated on a spot on the wall across the stage from her. A man walks in with more beer. His eyes carry pain and his shoulders, a lot of weight. Danny (Adam Belvo) breaks the silence off by asking Roberta (Sara Fellini) for pretzels. Angry words are exchanged between strangers. A conversation, albeit a forced one, happens.
Fellini and Belvo are the artistic director and executive producer, respectively, of spit&vigor, the company behind this production whose mission includes giving "a platform for actors to realize their full potential." spit&vigor tackles this intense drama by John Patrick Shanley with skill. Although the final product comes across as a work in progress in some aspects, they manage to bring a degree of lyricism into the lives of the two characters, the kinds of people who exist and only move forward when driven by the external forces that surround them, never being able themselves to exert any sort of control.
Belvo delivers an over the top performance in the first half of the play as a man whose anger has installed itself in him to the extent that it has become second nature, an animalistic response triggered by the smallest of disagreements. It is during the second half of the play, when Danny and Roberta are together in her room, that his character gains depth—an infantile and somewhat raw kindness blossoms. It is also during that part that Belvo gives us range and shines on stage. Fellini acts the part of the woman tormented by her sins and pains with abandonment. Her delivery, contrived and speedy at first, makes it difficult to register her character's words. The close proximity of faces at the start of the play gives physical tension to their anger and has strength to it, but one could argue that it is borderline choreographic and therefore too controlled. Much like Belvo, Fellini transitions well into the bedroom scene and, letting her hair down, fully owns Roberta's pain and anxiety. Neither of them lacks in intensity or commitment at any moment, but they only truly seem at home, so to speak, after the first wave of anger distills into a first attempt of love.
The text, "a violent dance for two people" according to Shanley's stage directions, doesn't give much explanation about the characters' seemingly gratuitous aggressive behavior, nor does it dwell on Roberta's choices that drove her to feel guilty and nasty and yearn for punishment. Instead, it shows two wounded animals that rush in love for salvation after falling into combat with themselves while simultaneously fighting each other. Hurt gives way to denial that gives way to a slither of fabricated hope, much like the moon shining above their heads or the sea sounds flooding their room on their night together.
Tightly directed by Pat Diamond, Danny and The Deep Blue Sea is a good option for those looking to be reminded of the power of compassion.
(Danny and The Deep Blue Sea plays at Under St. Mark's, 94 St. Mark's Place, and runs through December 19, 2015. The show runs 70 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Tuesdays at 7; Saturdays at 10:30; and Sundays at 7. Tickets are $20 or 'Pay-what-you-can' on the late night performances and are available at spitnvigor.com.)
Danny and The Deep Blue Sea is written by John Patrick Shanley and directed by Pat Diamond. Assistant director is Andy Zimmerman. Stage manager is Jake Gilford. House managers are Kaitlan Emery and Patrick Caughill. Fight captain is Adam Belvo.
It features Adam Belvo and Sara Fellini.