It is late at night in the belly of the Bronx, New York, when Roberta and Danny auspiciously meet in a dingy and empty bar, each seeking out peace and quiet. Both uneasy and defensive, their attempts at conversation are jilted early on by verbal sparring and threats, but something about their connection lights a spark in both anguished humans. Danny, a day laborer who lives with his mother has a problem handling his violent rages, is boiling over with need and pain after a street fight in which he’s afraid he killed someone. Roberta, a single mother who lives with the parents who raise her child and spends her nights out partying late, is out looking for reasons to prove her worthlessness to herself. What begins as an bitter argument in a bar transforms into an unexplainable understanding between the two. Their natures are compatible enough to challenge and interrogate one another’s self-destructive tendencies, without losing sight of trust. They leave for Roberta’s to spend the night together, suspicious but enticed by the depth of their bond. Danny and Roberta find themselves able to communicate in what seems to be a new language for them both-- that of empathy and openness. They allow themselves to explore fantasies together, both the grace of kindness and the compassion of romantic love. Roberta holds Danny in her arms through his rages, nudging and cajoling him to verbalize the things that make him so angry instead of reacting with sheer violence. Danny listens carefully as Roberta reveals some of her own harder truths about her sexually traumatic past, and validates her pain while pushing away any notion that she is shamefully ruined. It is clear that neither Danny nor Roberta has ever known anything more honest or gentle than this time spent in one another’s company. Whether they will stay together after this formative night is an unanswered question that lingers, but it is undeniable that they have changed one another’s lives. Through Roberta and Danny, John Patrick Shanley cleverly and tenderly explores the deep need for human compassion and the power that can come from speaking out about the dark things that trouble a person’s soul. Written during the dawn of “self-help” as a way of dealing with emotional baggage in America’s early 1980s, it is clear through this touching piece of drama that the need for sharing pain with others exists even in the most desperate and closed-off corners of our world.
Danny and the Deep Blue Sea guide sections