Theatre Preview: Getting intimate with Rogues

By Emily Senger

During an Apache Dance the performing couple plays the role of dominated and dominator, with the man pushing and slapping his partner around, using and abusing her physically and sexually. The dance doesn’t end until the man takes all he wants and declares it over.

The latest production from Rouges Theater, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, is described by playwright John Patrick Shanley, better known for his Academy Award winning play Moonstruck, as an Apache Dance, and aptly so.

Directed by Joe-Norman Shaw, the play follows the emotional journey of two troubled characters, Danny (Kurtis Sanheim) and Roberta (Christianne Hirt). Upon their meeting in a dingy bar, Danny is bruised and battered from a recent brawl–just one more in a string of fights ignited by his frighteningly fierce temper. Roberta is a divorced single mother, wracked by self-loathing and haunted by her sexual past. The two begin a conversation and eventually end up in Roberta’s bedroom where they divulge their thoughts and feelings to unite in their loneliness.

Despite the play’s dark nature, Shaw says contemporary audiences will find themselves fascinated and able to relate to the characters in Danny and the Deep Blue Sea.

“It comes out of a kind of darkness,” he says. “There is a yearning and passion for something better. It has humour and romance, and the complexity of a human relationship–everyone can relate to that.”

The set of the play, a couple of bar stools at a circular table, and Roberta’s rumpled bed on the floor, are intentionally simplistic. They supplement the audience’s intimate encounter with the characters and create a showcase for the actors’ talents.

Both actors are professionals of stage and film. Hirt starred opposite Russell Crowe in the 1994 film For the Moment and as Hannah on Lonesome Dove, while Sanheim has appeared recently with Vertigo Mystery Theater. Both are drawn back to the small stage at the Joyce Doolittle Theater by what Shaw says is a love of acting and an “opportunity to play these characters.”

“It was letting a couple of thoroughbreds run,” says Shaw of his experience directing Hirt and Sanheim. Shaw added both actors’ experience allows them to run the gamut of emotion written into the script.

“Christianne can deliver the goods–she has so much intensity,” explains Shaw. “Kurtis–his character is very volatile and filled with rage, he brought a real toughness with a solid heart which is what Danny is.”

The Joyce Doolittle Theater is an intimate setting, allowing audiences to explore their own emotions as they get up close and personal with the talents of playwright John Patrick Shanley and the troupe of Rogues Theater.

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