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Good Sex, Better Conversation

Posted August 22nd, 2012

Festival Blog contributor Richard Bon lives in Northern Liberties with his wife and daughter. He posts original flash fiction of his own or by a guest writer every other Monday on his blog, liminalfiction.com.

Random sex happens. In David Ireland‘s The End of Hope, The End of Desire, co-produced for 2012 Philly Fringe by Tiny Dynamite and Extreme Measures, it happens just before the play’s opening lines. Characters played by Corinna Burns and Jared Delaney are introduced during detumescence and, after conveying their mutual satisfaction, engage in a conversation that takes them to unexpected places.

While their characters in End of Hope met via a web site dedicated to sex between consenting strangers, Corinna and Jared met in real life ten years ago when they both were cast in a collaborative play called The Artist’s Workshop. “We were both very opinionated and always seemed to disagree,” Corinna tells me, “but eventually we came to respect each other and became good friends.” Though they’ve rarely acted together since, their friendship has grown, as has their mutual respect. When Emma Gibson, producing artistic director for Tiny Dynamite, asked them to star in End of Hope’s Philadelphia debut as part of her “a Play, a Pie, and a Pint” program in October 2011, they jumped at the chance.

“Corinna’s unique quality as an actor,” says Jared, “is believability. It never seems like she’s acting, I never doubt her.” He can hardly finish the sentence before Corinna nods and declares that Jared has a similar “honesty and a grounded presence on stage.”

With only a few weeks to prepare for End of Hope last autumn, the duo relied heavily on their natural chemistry to make the show work. And work it did, selling out The Red Room of The Society Hill Playhouse, Fergie’s Pub in Center City, and MilkBoy in Ardmore.

After the jump: summing the whole of human existence (you read that right).

Sitting with Corinna and Jared at The Off-Broad Street Theater, shared home to Azuka Theatre and Inis Nua Theatre Company, they discuss why they decided to reprise End of Hope in this larger space. “The more you perform it, the more you find in it,” Jared explains. “A lot of sentences just end, and then we come back to them later.” Because the dialogue infrequently follows a logical flow, the additional rehearsal time they have for the Fringe event helps them to nail their comedic timing.

One surely welcome similarity between the debut and this production: viewers once again get a beer with the cost of a ticket. With no disrespect intended toward teetotalers, who wouldn’t want a drink while they watch half naked bedfellows get to know one another after the deed is done? And if the purpose of their encounter was supposed to be strictly sex with no strings attached, then why does their postcoital chat even occur?

People often “hope that sex will turn into something more than just sex, but it doesn’t always work out that way,” Corinna offers. “This play presents the opposite of that [scenario].” In other words, since the arrangement between them was such that they would meet to have intercourse and then go their separate ways, the fact that they stick around and talk to each other thereafter inverts the typical concept of the one night stand.

“They both realize that their lives are not exactly what they want them to be,” Jared adds. “They both really want someone to talk to . . . and doesn’t really wanting someone to talk to sum up the whole of human existence?”

With this deeply philosophical question hanging in the balance, I ask Corinna and Jared about the company name, Extreme Measures, that they selected for their co-production credit. The answer pertains to a 2010 flick called The Trip http://www.ifcfilms.com/films/the-trip with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Corinna and Jared watched the movie together and found themselves “laughing uproariously,” as Jared puts it, most notably during a deleted scene in which Coogan and Brydon repeatedly quote a fictitious advertisement for a potential Trevor Eve television show. “We chose the name as an homage to that film,” Jared notes.

In addition to their recent formation of Extreme Measures for Philly Fringe, both Corinna and Jared have been as busy as ever on other projects.

Corinna was part of an ensemble cast in Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play August: Osage County at the Arden Theater last year and Elaine Murphy’s Little Gem with Inis Nua in February 2012. She’s performed in a Philly Fringe show every year since the festival’s inception, and this year you’ll also find her in Raw Stitch by Jacqueline Goldfinger. In fact, on three evenings in September you can see her in Jacqueline’s production at Quig’s Pub and then walk just a few blocks to see her in End of Hope later that same night. Inis Nua considers Corinna a de facto member because of her regular appearances in their productions.

For Jared, Inis Nua’s Associate Artistic Director, the 2012-2013 season marks his first foray into writing a play for the company. The Hand of Gaul, a comedy about three Irish football (soccer) fans who hatch a plot to assassinate Thierry Henry following his egregious, uncalled hand ball against their beloved national team during a 2010 World Cup elimination match, premieres in April as part of PIFA. Jared feels “grateful to be an official member” of Inis Nua, which is Gaelic for ‘New Island,’ and credits Artistic Director Tom Reing for his commitment to bringing the best in contemporary Irish, English, Scottish, and Welsh theater to Philadelphia.

As Corinna and Jared and I wrap up our interview, they laugh while recounting some of their favorite Fringe experiences from past years. “I’ve been completely nude on stage before,” Corinna recalls. “I once had hot wax dripped on my back during a show,” Jared follows. End of Hope’s intelligent, witty narrative and simple bedroom setting may be the perfect vehicle for these two close friends and accomplished actors to showcase their love for the fun and flair of Fringe.

The End of Hope, The End of Desire runs September 7, 8, 14, 15, and 21 at The Off-Broad Street Theater at First Baptist Church, 1636 Sansom Street, Center City. All shows at 10:00 pm, $15.

–Richard Bon

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