Playing through November 14th

PARK CITY — Intense.  This was the first word I heard from several audience members as the lights went up on Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, produced by Egyptian Theater Studios.   Intense doesn’t seem to do it justice though. Try explosive, angry, violent, fierce and delicious.

Mainstream theater like Music Man, Hamlet, even Angels in America has it’s merits – all three of these shows are among my favorites.  However, if you want something that has you holding your breath from start to finish, that makes you shift in your seat with discomfort, that pushes boundaries – then Danny is a must see.

Danny is best summed up as a love story between a guy who is homicidal and a girl who is suicidal. The front of the playbill reads “Brutally Raw” and “Sexually Charged.”  The story is a snapshot of less than 24 hours in the life of two individuals wrapped up in loneliness and self-loathing as they collide in a bar and a bedroom.   Will they be able to find peace within each other before they careen over the edge?  This is in no way appropriate for children or those who may take offense to incredibly strong language, violence and nudity.

I am not ashamed to say that I love this kind of theater and I loved this production.  I like raw, honest, edgy, walk out of the theater with your mind racing kind of nights. I love having to pick up the phone after a show to rant about it to a friend, simply because there is so much going through my head.

Egyptian’s website reads: “This brutally dramatic and sexually charged drama is a far cry from The Egyptian’s main stage bill of light-hearted musical comedies, hopefully filling a desired niche for locals who are looking for more straight dramatic theatre in town.”

Um, yes.  Niche filled and thank you! I know that this kind of dramatic theater is not for everyone but it may just be my favorite kind of theater and I am really hoping that they will continue their quest to bring more dramatic theater to the Utah community.  I for one am doing my part and will be returning to see Danny next weekend – and I am bringing along several friends to ride this roller coaster with me.

The show began with angry rock music so loud that you couldn’t really hear the actors.  I loved this because it set the tension perfectly.  As the lights go up, we find Roberta (Amber Hansen) sitting alone at a table in a bar.  Enter Danny (Jesse Peery) who is so high strung you feel as if he might just explode out into the audience.   The music and anger assaulting you from the stage sets the pace for the entire show.  It is the beginning of a breath that you take and hold thorough the next screaming hour.

Hansen and Peery were amazing.  Both actors had to deliver a ferocious story full of humor, explosions, insecurity, fear, longing and hope.  I was exhausted just being in the room, their dedication to their characters was brilliant.

Hansen raged between violent outbursts, childlike dreams and tortured remembrances. Peery, I almost can’t find the words for his performance.  He delivered such a volatile character with such compassion.  I am a fan of both for life. I actually came home and looked up videos to see other actors playing these parts, just for comparison. I quickly tired of this because nothing came close to Hansen and Peery.

The makeup and clothing was spot on.  Peery entered the stage looking messed up. He’s a fighter and the cuts, bruises and his general disarray spoke to this.   I wanted to know more about these fights immediately.  Hansen didn’t look like an actor on a set.  She carried herself and dressed as though she were a tough Jersey girl hiding behind a bottle.

When the lights came up at the beginning, I felt like I was in a bar.  From the neon sign hanging in the background to the dimness of the stage, it was very much what I equate to the grunginess of a dive-bar. The movement on stage was in constant flux, which spoke well to both characters being uncomfortable in their own skin.

Danny is the 2nd work written by John Patrick Shanley, who is best known for Moonstruck, Joe Versus the Volcano, Alive, and more recently, Doubt.  Terence Goodman who has produced and/or directed several Egyptian productions including Sweeny Todd, Alter Boyz, and Cabaret brilliantly directed tonight’s production.

As a reviewer, I tend to review very differently when I see something at Capitol Theater opposed to a local city arts council production in a school auditorium.  Egyptian for me comes somewhere in between.  I have come to expect certain quality with the price of a ticket.  Community Theater gets a bad reputation and I try always to recognize it for what it is.  It is art in our community and that is never to be diminished.

However, shows like this present a problem for me. I sat tonight for an hour, watched two people on stage, with a very simple set and I was more impressed with this production than I was after seeing some productions in NYC.  At $10 a ticket, this is considered Community Theater.   In my book, it raises the standards for other community productions.  Now, when I sit in any show, I am going to say – look at what they did – what’s your excuse?

Egyptian Theater Studio’s production of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea runs through November 14th. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 435-649-9371.  Note: for those of you use to attending shows at Egyptian, the Studio theater is located across the street in a cozy black box theater in the lower level of the Main Street Mall in Park City.