Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Two f****d up characters meet up in a downtown bar in New York and strike up a friendship with redemptive power. The acting is tremendous but the other elements don’t quite match up.
Inspired by a workshop held by Los Angeles acting coach, Larry Moss, (who works Hilary Swank and Leonardo di Caprio among others) Allessija Lause, Nikolaus Szentmiklosi and Andreas Schmidt decided to form a company and work on new plays in a new way in the spirit of the workshop. This is their first production.
In Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, two f***d up characters are washed up in a New York bar. Alienated and belligerent, they’re a perfect match. His face and hands already bloodied from a fight, he’s a truck driver that the other drivers call the beast. She’s the beauty who has a terrible secret that she can’t forgive herself for and instead finds herself at the bottom of a wine glass. Trust is hard to find, used to abuse from others, they spar around each other. There’s a turning point where she reveals her secret and a fragile trust develops between them. A night between them follows where possibilities of forgiveness and redemption ensue, where both let down their defences enough to allow a glimmer of hope.
Nikolaus Szentmiklosi and Allesia Schmidt put in bravura performances. These are searing, deeply felt and highly physical performances. They throw each other round the stage until you feel they’ll be black and blue afterwards. They are hard bitten barflies from the Bronx. They are wonderful sparring partners: tense behind their own defences, lashing out at each other (both literally and metaphorically), and then tentatively opening up to reveal an inner softness. The acting is full . of grit, rugged and raunchy, and yet that’s not enough
Even their fine performances can’t quite carry it. Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is a 1983 play by John Patrick Shanley. There is some strong writing here: fierce, hard-bitten speeches that take no prisoners. It’s billed as a comedy but didn’t get many laughs the day I was there; possibly a bigger audience might have helped here. However, there’s a more fundamental problem with the play than this. It’s a play about the transformative power of love, about the possibility of redemption and forgiveness. It’s realistic and raunchy yet has a fairy tale story line. Ultimately it’s hard to suspend belief quite enough to believe that these two characters can stop fighting long enough to have even the possibility of a future together that the play offers.
The set is simple a barely painted bar which later shifts to a barely furnished room. The lighting is harsh and unchanging. The actors are centre stage throughout and while their acting is of an extremely high standard, it doesn’t – or shouldn’t stand alone.
It’s the wrong play in the wrong space. It’s a low-life, late night kind of play and suffers for being on in broad daylight. Given a later slot, a more intimate venue and dimmer lighting, this play would pack a more powerful punch than it does.