Danny and the Deep Blue Sea: An Apache Dance

A charming Romeo and Juliet they ain't, but Danny (Daniel DeWeldon) and Roberta (Deborah Dir), with all their rough edges and harsh characteristics, are nevertheless star-crossed lovers of a rather sweet fairy tale-make that sweet 'n' sour. As the subtitle, An Apache Dance, suggests, this is no namby-pamby cakewalk down the aisle.

A chance meeting at a Bronx dive brings these two misfits together over a bowl of pretzels and a pitcher of beer. What appears at first to be round one of a knock-down, drag-out match between two streetwise heavies becomes a hookup, pure and simple. The surprise is what comes after the sex: an honest, clumsy cry for what could otherwise be described as nothing less than romance, the attempt at which is both humorous and touching.

John Patrick Shanley has written his characters as fairly stereotypical, leaving it up to the actors and director to make them real and interesting. With this production, we can say mission accomplished. DeWeldon's Danny is a frazzled man, going through life with a hair trigger, ready to blow away anyone and everyone in his way. The actor cautiously keeps Danny away from giving in too easily or quickly to new feelings. When he gives us a glimpse inside, the bear becomes a teddy bear. DeWeldon's performance is wonderfully layered, peeling Danny's years of hurt away quite painfully. Dir's Roberta is filled not only with loneliness but also with unfathomable guilt, which she shares for the first time, with Danny. She gives Roberta many different dimensions as a woman desperately reaching out and seeking forgiveness. Michael Arabian's direction keeps everything in perfect balance-the drama from spilling into melodrama-targeting the humor to help us like this couple and laugh with them, not at them.

Theatre Asylum,

6320 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood.

Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m. Jun. 8-Oct. 20.

(323) 960-7753. www.plays411.com/danny.