Its no wonder why “Danny,” written and directed by Andrew Rothkin, has been resurrected for its third production at the Planet Connections Festival at the Green Room Theatre: It’s a one-act play featuring a delightful cast filled with an abundance of energy too big for the venue. All the drama will almost make you forget you’re watching a low-budget performance.
In it, five old college friends meet annually on April 26 by the grave of their deceased friend, Danny, to celebrate his life by retelling stories from the past. All the characters except John, Danny’s former partner, are unable to accept the tragedy and move on. Daring to cut off all communication with his friends, John is forced to face his demons in order to make peace with his past.
James Kaliardos gives a convincing performance as Marco, a homosexual with a mouth that runs faster than any mind can form a sentence. The introduction of each character at the cemetery was too much to keep up with, especially Marco’s. He seemed to ramble on, dropping one celebrity name after another and singing choruses from popular oldies, accompanied by the character of Gary’s (portrayed by James Pravasilis) guitar playing. It was rather confusing, finding yourself lost among the dialogue. Nevertheless, Marco’s character had some of the wittiest and comedic lines, easily provoking laughs from the audience.
Clip-on microphones were not necessary as the theater was quite small, seating about 30 people with the stage no more than 20 feet from the last row; at times, the actors were a bit too loud for such close proximity.
The stage was rather bare, except for a white headstone with the name “Danny” printed on it in gold letters and a picnic setup complete with utensils, wine and food in front of a large projector displaying a scene of greenery. Boosting the imagination to bring the set to life were the soft bird chirps playing on repeat, giving the audience a real burial-ground atmosphere.
The costumes were nothing special, just regular clothing that worked well for the present period. The characters’ outfits reflected their personalities, as Marco, the most flamboyant character, was dressed in candy-apple red pants, shirt and suspenders and silver-studded black Chuck Taylors. John, the uptight one, had on a button-down white shirt, khaki slacks and glasses getup.
Toward the end of the show, things start to look up – well, for the audience at least, as the mood of the play does a 180 and turns into a drama-filled fiasco. John, played by Jason Barker, gives an amazing emotional breakdown performance, enabling the audience to understand his ways and why he needs to leave the past behind. Sympathy invades the audience as the characters become more real and relatable, causing you to feel for their loss. Another strong execution by Kaliardos’ character weeping silently to himself in a corner makes you want to go on stage and comfort him.
Combining both comedy and drama,“Danny” is an entertaining play that will have you laughing and tearing by the end. With intense acting, the characters are brought to life through the talented cast, overshadowing the minimal stage setup. The plot is not attention-grabbing on paper, but onstage it’s a different story, as the cast struggles to make it through another day without their dear friend, Danny. You will find yourself asking, “Am I happy with my life, or am I settling for the familiar?”