December 18, 2018

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Play explores finding beauty in ugliness

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea a perfect intro to Shanley's work

Kayla Gordon</p><p>RobYn Slade (left) and Darren Martens, as Roberta and Danny, in Patrick Shanley’s play, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea: An Apache Dance, held at the Keep Theatre until Feb. 17.</p></p>

Kayla Gordon

RobYn Slade (left) and Darren Martens, as Roberta and Danny, in Patrick Shanley’s play, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea: An Apache Dance, held at the Keep Theatre until Feb. 17.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/2/2018 (318 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If any one play might serve as a perfect introduction to the works of playwright John Patrick Shanley, it may very well be Danny and the Deep Blue Sea. And if any one production may serve as a perfect introduction to the pleasures of a community theatre festival, it’s this one.

It’s set in Shanley’s home turf of the Bronx, and, as per its subtitle — Apache Dance — it deftly weaves brutality and artistry. (The term refers to the Parisian dance form of the early 20th century, oft depicting the violence between pimp and prostitute. Early filmed renditions of the form are screened at the back of the theatre space before performances.)

In a nearly vacant bar sits Roberta (RobYn Slade), a tough, 31-year-old single mom taking a break from the oppressions of what could be understated as a troubled home life. She is sufficiently wised up to the ways of the world and not scared off by the appearance of the bruised, black-leather-clad Danny (Darren Martens), likewise taking refuge — possibly from the police — in this dank watering hole.

In a kind of startling variation of a meet-cute, the two eventually share a table and trade confessions. Danny thinks he may have killed someone. Roberta carries the guilty weight of a sexual outrage involving a family member.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/2/2018 (318 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If any one play might serve as a perfect introduction to the works of playwright John Patrick Shanley, it may very well be Danny and the Deep Blue Sea. And if any one production may serve as a perfect introduction to the pleasures of a community theatre festival, it’s this one.

It’s set in Shanley’s home turf of the Bronx, and, as per its subtitle — Apache Dance — it deftly weaves brutality and artistry. (The term refers to the Parisian dance form of the early 20th century, oft depicting the violence between pimp and prostitute. Early filmed renditions of the form are screened at the back of the theatre space before performances.)

In a nearly vacant bar sits Roberta (RobYn Slade), a tough, 31-year-old single mom taking a break from the oppressions of what could be understated as a troubled home life. She is sufficiently wised up to the ways of the world and not scared off by the appearance of the bruised, black-leather-clad Danny (Darren Martens), likewise taking refuge — possibly from the police — in this dank watering hole.

In a kind of startling variation of a meet-cute, the two eventually share a table and trade confessions. Danny thinks he may have killed someone. Roberta carries the guilty weight of a sexual outrage involving a family member.

Both characters initially appear as hopeless hard cases. Danny has a hair-trigger temper and can be induced to violence at he slightest provocation, or no provocation at all. Roberta has come to the sullen conclusion that life is its own punishment for her transgression.

So it is a bit of a shock that the two leave the bar and head for Roberta’s room, where Roberta hits on the plan of being nice to each other, a ploy that serves to open up wellsprings of hitherto unexpressed emotion.

The whole play feels like watching a forebodingly spiky thistle bloom into something beautiful.

Director Sharon Bajer directs with economy, eliciting terrific performances. Outbursts of physical action never overwhelm the potency of the words, the playwright’s weapon of choice.

And they’re spoken rather brilliantly. Slade has always been a great comic presence on the improv stage, and her finely honed timing serves her well here. But her gentle unmasking of Roberta’s vulnerability is a beautiful and moving thing to behold.

Martens strongly navigates the tricky paradox of Danny, a tough guy who is actually deeply hurt when his co-workers refer to him as "the Beast."

It might be relatively easy to play a coiled snake. It’s not so easy when the snake is prone to periodic panic attacks.

randall.king@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @FreepKing

Kayla Gordon</p><p>RobYn Slade plays Roberta, a tough, 31-year-old single mom</p></p>

Kayla Gordon

RobYn Slade plays Roberta, a tough, 31-year-old single mom

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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