By Patrick Hurley
Drawing parallels to an Apache dance, the dance of death, seeking to create a heated struggle between two lovers, this production relies on text over any revelatory staging to make such a connection.
It is an appropriate comparison when merely considering the narrative of John Patrick Shanley’s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, playing now through July 26 at Los Angeles Theatre Center. The text alone is teeming with desire, violence, desperation, and lust, enough to create a proverbial dance between two volatile people. A proverbial dance that could have been made literal with the right physical staging. But instead, this production allows the language more room to move than the actors.
The story is about Danny (Hugo Medina) a hotheaded young man always looking for the next provocation, and Roberta (Sofia Yepes) a mercurial woman who finds some kind of pleasure in granting him such provocations. The two meet one night at a bar, and begin a conversation that leads them to her bedroom for the night. It is a night fueled by lustful intentions, playful flirtations, and ultimately deep revelations that bring together two lost souls, two ships passing in the dark, treacherous night. Each with a compelling and painful history, with an eye on an idyllic future, and a need to escape the inertia of the present that has nonetheless caused their perhaps fateful collision.
This production, directed by Fidel Gomez is close to being an immersive theatrical experience. The audience is ushered down stairs, through the backstage areas of LATC, only to end up in a room set up with small cabaret-style table and chairs, a few sofas, and two bedrooms on either side. As a means to have the audience become pat of the show. When the play begins, however, there is still a separation between audience and the actors. This
is due to the fact that most of the staging happens in the center of the room directly in front of the audience. It was more black box than immersive. Mr. Gomez seems to have missed a few opportunities to fully immerse the audience. There is also a lack of movement in the direction. Emphasizing the parallels between this play and the aggressive Apache dance doesn’t fully connect outside of the dialogue. There is a poetic violence in the language of this play, and with only a few moments of movement that brings the play to vivid life, mostly the violence stays within the spoken words. However, the attempt to bring the audience into the world of the play was an interesting aspect to throw into this particular play. Considering the intimate nature of the material, it must have at least presented a challenge for the actors. Working with heavily evocative characters at such close range to an audience must be akin to walking a tight rope.
And these two actors are mostly up to the challenge. Hugo Medina, as Danny, emits the right balance of arrogant and innocent, a contradiction that allows for empathy, for insight to creep in just beneath his gruff exterior. As Roberta, Sofia Yepes is fantastic. She can go big one minute, and she can pull in and delicately evoke with only a look a moment later. She fully embodies both heart and soul of Roberta, and she is committed to her every moment. Both actors, while skirting stereotypes, a little too closely in his case, overcome the challenges of the staging of this production to create unfeigned character studies of two people on the brink in their lives. And through their palpable chemistry, it could be seen as a figurative dance, but it’s more like watching people hanging on to the edge of a cliff trying to keep each other from falling. And if nothing else, that makes for a captivating evening of theater.
Danny and the Deep Blue Sea
By John Patrick Shanley
Directed by Fidel Gomez
Los Angeles Theatre Center
514 S. Spring St. Los Angeles, CA 90013
July 9-July 26
Students, Seniors, Veterans: $22
Groups of 12 or more: $20 per ticket.
213. 489. 0994