But while it takes time to acclimate to this tale of people defined by violence and self-loathing, the payoff is worth it. After a tentative connection, Danny and Roberta spend a night and morning trying to figure out what they can be to one another. Gradually, the play becomes a heartbreaking portrait of what happens to people convinced they don’t deserve to be happy.
The play requires two tightrope-walking performances, and that’s what director Terence Goodman finds in his young leads. Peery spends much of the first act twitching and darting like an animal that can barely be contained by its own skin, yet he grounds that constant motion in a longing for connection. Hansen’s Roberta proves to be equally complex, and she finds a completely convincing way to convey an anger and despair perhaps more profound than Danny’s. Together, they’re riveting to watch.
That doesn’t mean Danny is easy to watch. The story is often brutally frank, and the high pitch of the emotions in such an intimate setting creates a near-constant tension. But for a mesmerizing 70 minutes, two terrific performances take us to a tragic, painfully real world.