Conversations After Sex – In the Land of Hook-up Apps
Once upon a time, post-coital depiction routinely showed men and women exhausted in disordered sheets, perhaps smoking. In the Grindr, Tinder etc. app world – it’s theirs and we’re living in it – wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am hook-ups are so matter of fact, both parties are out of bed and on to other things. Sharing feelings is rare unless they apply to the encounter. Still, personal revelations might emerge when a partner safely assumes they will never see a bed mate again.
We meet protagonists at the end of what he (Fionn Ó Loingsigh) calls “an honest pick up.” She (Kate Stanley Brennan) offers to “go” another round, but he has someplace to be. Disappointment is masked. They meet again when she sees him online and says “hello.” Wait-is it the same man? Both admit to frequent in-passing trysts. Occasional compliments arrive like offhand observation. She’s getting over the loss of a great love. One man is broken up about losing his mother. Sometimes those emotions erupt.
Reference to recent romantic partners and one man’s engagement – she sees him with the other woman – come across as curious familiars exchanging status information. Hook-ups continue or wait in the wings. We’re at his place, her place, a hotel. “Thank you for paying,” she says. Twice they smoke grass and snort cocaine – the same man? And wildly dance. We learn what one man did and does for work – and why she doesn’t have to earn money. Her sister briefly stops by.
Two of them compare notches on their beds. There’s reference to pornography. She talks to her deceased lover. The Brazilian is going home. Though not a single name is shared, we see a final gesture of real intimacy. Perhaps the revolving door has stopped.
Both Kate Stanley Brennan and Fionn Ó Loingsigh are terrific. Irish accents don’t interfere with clarity of speech. Like singing in counterpoint duet, the actors maintain their characters’ respective trajectories while relating to one another. Moments of attention land well. When Brennan shows intermittent sympathy to suffering men, we feel the careful awareness not to cross a line. Ó Loingsigh’s youngest lover guilelessly serenades.
Clelia Murphy is credible in the unnecessary role of a sister suffering her own romantic alienation.
Direction by Tom Creed manages to indicate subtle differences in each encounter. Lack of sexual teasing is striking. Multiple hes seem at ease in their bodies while “she” folds in on herself, never quite upright, covering her breasts in bed, fully relaxed only stoned and dancing. Limited staging area is well used for variety of movement. (No, there’s no simulated sex.) A single ongoing acquaintance-with-benefits manifests gradual change with dialogue, not signs of physical familiarity. A lost opportunity. That both characters have a penchant for bursting into tears is one of the few ways we’re aware of that man’s identity.
Here’s the rub: Though episodic month, location, and time of day are called out, (projected titles), we never know when her companion is someone new or a repeat. “She” seems to begin and end with the same man who also appears intermittently between. There’s also a Brazilian at least twice and a 21 year-old. At one point, I thought I detected a difference in accent, but it passed. Perhaps confusion is intended to spotlight the succession of John Does. It’s discomfiting.
Sarah Bacon’s set is comprised of the bed with signs of other furniture far on the periphery left and right i.e. perfectly appropriate. Costumes are as innocuous as liaisons. Ivan Birthistle’s sound design is nuanced and atmospheric.
Photos by Emon Hassan
Conversations After Sex by Mark O’Halloran
Directed by Tom Creed
Through March 11, 2023
Irish Arts Center
726 11th Avenue at 51 Street
The spiffy new Irish Arts Center is a theater-attending pleasure.