New depths for drama
November 5, 2010
The bill of fare at The Egyptian Theatre runs the gamut from comedy to musicals to interactive shows. The one thing missing from its repertoire, says former artistic director Terence Goodman, is serious dramatic theater.
That void will be filled this week with the opening of "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea" in the Egyptian Theatre Studios, located on the lower level of the Main Street Mall,
The Studios consist of a black box theater and spaces that the Egyptian has been using for its Youtheatre classes. The venue will provide opportunities for the theatre to present less mainstream works in a more intimate setting.
"Danny and the Deep Blue Sea" is a brutally-raw, sexually-charged two-actor play. It was written in 1982 by John Patrick Shanley, who won an Academy Award for "Moonstruck" and a Tony Award and Academy Award nomination for "Doubt."
It tells the tale of two misfits who meet in a bar in the Bronx and spend the night divulging their darkest secrets, sharing their hopes and dreams, and exposing their emotional demons. Danny is violent, frenetic and possibly homicidal; Roberta is tormented, self-loathing and possibly suicidal. By the end of the three scenes, each is transformed by the love of the other.
The play contains language, slight nudity and sexual content that is appropriate for mature audiences only.
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Goodman, who served as artistic director at The Egyptian Theatre from 2007 to 2009, is directing the show with Jesse Peery as Danny and Amber Hansen as Roberta.
He says he jumped at the chance to direct a play that is controversial (for Utah, at least) and different from anything the Egyptian has presented. "It’s theater in its most raw style," he says. "It’s a brave, brave concept and I think there is an audience in Park City that really longs for theater like this."
The allure of Shanley’s work, which was his first to be published and produced, lies in the dialogue and the monologues, Goodman says. "The text is really rich it’s like an onion with many layers."
Although audience members may have nothing in common with the characters, they’ll be drawn to universal themes such as isolation, the search for honesty and truth, and the power of redemptive love. "[The actors] expose themselves to the audience in a raw, brutal, gut-wrenching way," he says.
Hansen, who plays Roberta, is usually on the other side of the stage as a director and producer for the Egyptian Theatre. Before returning to her home state of Utah last year, she lived in New York City, where she was slated to play Roberta in an Off Broadway production but never got the chance to take the stage because funding fell through at the last minute.
"It’s a dream role," she says. "There are no leading lady characters like Roberta."
When the Egyptian staff began discussing options for the theatrical debut in the Studios, Hansen knew "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea" was a perfect pick.
"It’s a very difficult play for both director and actor," she explains. The challenging storyline is perfectly suited for the black box theater space, which is similar to spots in New York City where many actors get their start, she says.
The crux of the play is the spectrum of unmasked emotion. The characters alternate from yelling and throwing things at one another to sharing tender, touching moments. "It’s almost nauseating to tap into that experience," Hansen says.
Peery says he has developed a knot in his neck from the constant muscle tension that his character demands. Danny is a loose cannon with cuts and scars that show his numerous battle wounds. His problems go beyond emotional issues to possible physiological disorders.
Through the course of the play, he confronts some of his maturity issues and the audience sees him starting to become a man. "It’s the kind of gritty role that most actors say, ‘Someday I’m going to do that,’" he says.
Peery, a Utah native and resident of Salt Lake City, is making his Egyptian Theatre debut. He has been acting since age six and recently appeared in productions for the Utah Theatre Artists Company and the Wasatch Theatre Company.
The show is meant to ruffle feathers and leave the audience feeling conflicted.
"We want to make the audience think, not answer questions for them," Peery says.
"The point of the play is to see the raw appeal of human nature," Goodman says. "Ultimately it’s a quirky love story, but even at the end you’re not sure if these two gutter rats are going to make it."
"Danny and the Deep Blue Sea" will run for seven shows only, Nov. 5-7 and 11-14. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.parkcityshows.com.