Two lost souls meet up for a night of redemption in YOLO! Productions presentation of John Patrick Shanley’s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea. Danny (Michael Micalizzi) and Roberta (Nairoby Otero), each more screwed up than the other, are the only conscious patrons in a bar deep in the Bronx. Danny comes in all roughed up, black eyed and knuckles bleeding, prepared to drown himself in a pitcher of beer. Roberta sits alone with her best bitch face on, crushing pretzels beneath her own beer mug. It’s hard to say what eventually possesses Roberta to confess a deep, dark secret to Danny, a stranger. Maybe it’s his eyes, which she later describes as beautiful.
When the play begins and you see it’s two characters of the opposite gender, you pretty much know how it’s going to end. Intriguingly, this is the first time I’ve ever been so curious as to how two people with such thick walls up could ever possibly get together. It’s not magic; it’s not even pretty. But there’s a strange romance that bubbles up, possibly forced, between these two crazy kids. As in Shanley’s award-winning film Moonstruck, courtship is never a simple, easy affair.
An attempt at a site-specific play, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is cleverly showing at the Nuyorican Poets Café; a bar setting inside an actual bar. The simple set and lighting design (Jerad Schomer) reflects the bleakness and coldness of these characters’ lives.
Micalizzi and Otero are electric as the duo who transition from strangers to the only two people in the world who know each other best. Director Michelle Tattenbaum elicits such raw performances from her cast, you’d think you were actually a fly on the wall in some dive bar. Shanley sure does know how to write himself some damaged characters. These two people are so real, you feel for them, although their small stretches of happiness never do hit you with the warmth you crave. You get frustrated with them. You root for them. You pray they don’t implode.