In 1986 LA Theatre Works asked us if we’d be interested in co-producing John Patrick Shanley’s DANNY AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA, his second play, at the Back Alley. The play originated at the Humana Festival in Louisville and then was produced with the same cast, June Stein and John Turturro as the bar-crossed lovers, in 1983 by Circle in the Square Off-Broadway. It was a two-hander and the LA production featured Didi Conn and Paul Lieber, who the LA Times said gave “attractive and vivacious performances.” We provided the theatre and LA Theatre Works actually produced the play.

The NY Times said “The play is the equivalent of sitting at ringside watching a prize fight that concludes in a loving embrace. At its core, ‘Danny’ remains a factitious fairy tale. Performed without intermission, it is too long (85 minutes) to be approached as a vignette, and too dramatically underdeveloped to be regarded as a full-length double portrait. The characters are superficially examined and their simultaneous transformation puts a strain on the audience’s credulity.” The LA Times agreed with this assessment.

But the NY Times went on to say: “At the same time, ”Danny” is a vivid actor’s exercise. Scenes could be used as audition pieces for many seasons to come.” And they have—the play never stops being staged by those who want to do the parts. I only learned after the fact that Didi had actually funded the production at the
Back Alley as a vehicle for herself. Her husband David Shire composed the original music.

Shanley, went on, of course, to win the 1988 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film Moonstruck. His play, Doubt: A Parable, won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2005 Tony Award for Best Play; he wrote and directed the film adaptation and it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. And they all have great scenes for actors that will be done for years to come.

–Laura Zucker