Dive into Aubrey Plaza's career ahead of ‘Danny and the Deep Blue Sea’

The Emmy-nominated actress makes her professional stage debut with this rare Off-Broadway revival, following years of creating memorable roles on TV and film.

Joe Dziemianowicz
Joe Dziemianowicz

Aubrey Plaza, an Emmy-nominated and eminently quotable actress, once said she’s “not super comfortable” in her own skin. Such discomfort could come in handy for her professional stage debut as a divorced mother with a troubled past in the Off-Broadway revival of John Patrick Shanley’s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea.

Plaza co-stars with Christopher Abbott (Girls, The House of Blue Leaves) in the two-hander about lost souls who meet in a dingy Bronx bar and forge a connection that may conquer their self-destructive streaks. First seen in 1984, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea predates Shanley’s Oscar-winning Moonstruck and Tony- and Pulitzer-winning Doubt, and it gives its stars complex characters to bring to life — something Plaza excels at.

In anticipation of the romantic drama at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, get to know more about Plaza's wide range of memorable roles — and her many theatre-adjacent co-stars — with our career timeline below.

Parks and Recreation

April Ludgate, Plaza’s breakout role, went from an intern to an assistant on the hit NBC sitcom that ran seven seasons beginning in 2009. April was deadpan quirky every step of the way – and was written with Plaza in mind. “I just met the weirdest girl I’ve ever met in my life,” a casting agent told the creators about Plaza, entirely as a compliment. “You have to meet her and put her on your show.” Done.

aubrey plaza 1-1200x600-NYTG

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

In this 2010 action comedy, Plaza plays Julie Powers, one of the title character's friends who's as snarky, sarcastic, and potty-mouthed as people come. Plaza makes all of Julie’s extremes – including her self-bleeping ability – look perfectly natural. Her co-star in the title role was Michael Cera, who's appeared on Broadway three times.

Criminal Minds

Plaza joined the CBS series in 2015 during season 11. She added a creepy chill in the recurring role of Cat Adams, a serial killer who eventually pays dearly for her crimes.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

In this 2016 movie, Plaza and Anna Kendrick (star of the Into the Woods and The Last Five Years movie musicals) are ex-waitresses who answer an ad placed by two brothers – Zac Efron and Adam Devine – looking for ladies to accompany them to their sister’s big day. It sounds cute. It’s as much a raunch-com as a rom-com.

The Little Hours

Plaza flaunted a flair for farce – and a mean eye roll – in this 2017 comedy romp set during the Middle Ages. It’s about a servant on the lam who hides out in a convent. As the unhinged Sister Fernanda, Plaza brings a scary hilarity to the frisky shenanigans. Her co-stars included John C. Reilly (the Chicago movie musical) and Molly Shannon (Promises, Promises on Broadway; The Music Man and Glee on TV).

aubrey plaza 3-1200x600-NYTG

Ingrid Goes West

In the title role of this 2017 black comedy, Plaza plays a mentally shaky Pennsylvania woman who moves to Los Angeles to weasel her way into the life of an Instagram icon. Ingrid’s plot to become BFFs with the social media star (Elizabeth Olsen, with three NYC stage appearances under her belt) gets pretty sticky pretty quickly.

Black Bear

Set in a remote lakeside cabin in the Adirondacks, this 2020 drama blurs the boundaries of reality and earned Plaza the title “queen of the indies.” She played a filmmaker and actress working on a project who gets tangled in a love triangle – and some toxic intrigue. Christopher Abbott also stars in the movie, making Danny and the Deep Blue Sea a reunion for the pair.

Happiest Season

The complicated love affair between Abby (Kristen Stewart) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis) drives this 2020 Hulu rom-com. But Plaza practically steals the film as Harper’s ex, Riley, who, like Roberta, knows what it's like to experience trauma.

aubrey plaza 2-1200x600-NYTG

The White Lotus

In season 2 of the sexy HBO hit, Plaza earned an Emmy nod for playing Harper Spiller, a judgmental, cynical, miserably married lawyer vacationing with her husband and his friends in Italy. Harper, who played to Plaza’s dark and unpredictable strengths, takes advice not to be a victim. It’s a tip most people could use, including Roberta.

Emily the Criminal

Plaza’s intensity stuns like a taser in the title role of this 2022 film she produced about a student debt-ridden woman who can’t get a job because of a past felony. Her way out? Signing on with a ring involved in a dangerous credit card scam. Beware the boxcutter scene.

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea

Plaza's history of playing offbeat, complex, and utterly captivating characters makes Roberta in Danny and the Deep Blue Sea the perfect debut stage role for her. In a short 90 minutes, Roberta bares multiple layers of herself to Danny — and the audience — as she taps into anger, fear, and love. We're already thrilled to watch Plaza dive into it all.

Top image credit: Aubrey Plaza. (Photo courtesy of production)

Originally published on

Subscribe to our newsletter to unlock exclusive New York theatre updates!

Special offers, reviews and release dates for the best shows in town.

You can unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy