DANNY AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA, AMRO Productions, at Strawdog Theatre Company. Some directors can direct themselves, but many can’t. Director-producer Steve Orma, who also plays Danny in John Patrick Shanley’s oft-performed drama about hard-luck souls falling in love at a bar, belongs to the latter category. Shanley’s dialogue frequently strains credulity with its imitation Springsteen toughness (“I never seen so many stars. It gives me a fuckin’ headache”), but strong actors in a tightly directed production can rescue it from its cliches. Sarah Gee makes a sympathetic Roberta, the miserable 31-year-old mother haunted by her incestuous relationship with her father, but she’s given to superfluous gestures and is unconvincing during her angrier moments. Orma, a personable and intelligent actor certainly suitable for the role of the 29-year-old Danny, nearly always seems to be trying to direct the production while he’s acting and as a result delivers a stiff performance that’s never quite convincing.

Orma and Gee are quite engaging during the dreamy, romantic bedtime sequence, but their heated debates are poorly paced, and Orma’s blocking is frequently unnatural; the actors spend a lot of time arguing with each other while trying to keep their balance atop a flimsy mattress. Nicole Mischler is credited in the program as stage manager, sound operator, light-board operator, and “objective eye.” Adding an objective director would have been a better idea.

–Adam Langer