There comes a time in any dynamic evolution, where the need to stretch and grow becomes a necessity. Such is the case at the Coach House Theatre with the creation of the Artists Choice: Black Box Series. As Nancy Cates, Co-Artistic Director, explains “This series will enable Coach House Theatre to flex their artistic muscle and attract a younger audience, new young-adult actors, and directors.” This program enables play selections that are not part of traditional programming. To start the series off, the offering is the wildly dynamic “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea” by John Patrick Shanley. Mr. Shanley has quite the resume which includes the 2005 Pulitzer Prize winning “Doubt.” With good material to jump start a new series, the next job is to cast the show with solid performers to prove the point that different can be a good thing. And director Sarah Coon does just that, while guiding the piece in terrific form and execution.
The story involves two damaged people that find comfort in one another. The setting is a rundown bar in the Bronx, where two of society's rejects, Danny (Joe Pine) and Roberta (Tess Burgler), strike up a halting conversation over their beer. This is a raw, funny and poignant romantic tale with adult language and sexual content--just what the Series ordered. This is a 70 minute ride without intermission delving into the lives of two souls who have not had a good day in a long time. Pine and Burgler inhabit these two shattered lives with intensity and sharp focus. These two actors are amazing. To be honest, I want to wear them as clip-on earrings and just go around and act. Thank you.
In the beginning, Roberta is a woman who states, “Sometimes, I just start screaming,” while Danny shares that, along with his anger issues, “It never seems like enough.” Both characters live at home and are struggling to make a life for themselves. Roberta is haunted by a past sexual encounter, and Danny is struggling with panic attacks that can completely shut him down. But this is visceral acting that we witness. Both actors convey their character’s faults and tortured connection with great acumen. And when the two decide to spend the night together, the entrance into the bedroom generates more heat than watching the movie “Body Heat” on fast forward. It wouldn't be a bad idea to have ice water available for the faint of heart. Then we journey through what real emotions these two can garner. Watching Danny’s tender moments is a scream. The resolution is touching. The physicality in the play was both excellent and disturbing. These are two actors that trust each other explicitly and, as a result, the purest of truth resides.
Congrats to Coach House Theatre on an exciting new journey. I know that I will be there supporting the next production.
Kevin Joseph Kelly