nytheatre.com review by Pun Bandhu
August 13, 2006
Dating is hard enough in New York City. Imagine how much harder it would be if you were four feet tall. That is the predicament that faces Danny Boch (Stephen Jutras in what should be a break out performance) in this wonderfully thought-out, funny, and genuinely heartwarming play, Danny Boy, about the quest for self-esteem. In fact, you should stop reading this, log on to the FringeNYC site, and go see if tickets are still available for what will surely be a hit at this year's festival. (We'll be here when you come back.)
This rare find is a roller coaster ride of twists and turns that will surprise and engage you. Woven throughout are mentions of Oompa-Loompas, Dorothy in Munchkinland, and other stereotypes of little people that are ultimately transformed through a very human prism, reflecting a unique point of view that many of us aren't privy to. It's a play that any one who has ever felt like they weren't good enough can relate to, and as it turns out, that's everybody.
The acting is good across the board. Sarah Schoenberg is deliciously funny as an airy heiress who represents the opposite end of the spectrum in the dating game. She can have any man she wants, but doesn't believe that the men she's dated (including Trent, played by Kris Bratton) have ever seen below her surface beauty. In this way, we see that beautiful people are insecure too. I won't give anything away, but the funniest moment in the play involves her, Danny, and an elf costume.
Danny's mother Sheila (played with strength and grace by Joan Poust) is another complex character who wants so much for her son to think of himself as "normal" that she over-protects him. In her zeal to find her son a nice Jewish woman, she reveals her own bias against little people, demanding that her son put aside all thoughts of going to a Little People of America convention. "What do you have in common with those people?" she implores. It's an absurd line, but one that perfectly captures the subtle prejudices that little people face.
The real star here is playwright Marc Goldsmith, who has the keen romantic comedy writer's gift of being heartbreaking without veering into sentimentality. Unlike many playwrights who stop short before getting to the heart of the matter, he does not pull back from asking the hard questions. The scene where Danny challenges his friend Dory (Deshja Driggs-Hall, with razor sharp comedic timing) on why she has dated a string of losers yet always found him "incompatible" is one of those unexpected moments of truth that silences a room; you can hear the audience catch their breath as Danny's "everything's OK" veneer starts to crack and years of rage and hurt break to the surface. The play may need to be trimmed a bit, but it is one of those rare finds that makes you proud to support a festival that enables unknown playwrights to get the attention they deserve. Goldsmith is definitely a writer to look out for.
Now—have you gotten those tickets yet?