Hugo Medina and Sofia Yepes are currently starring in John Patrick Shanley’s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. The play, which takes place over less than a 24 hour period, is the story of two damaged strangers who meet at a bar in the Bronx. Over the course of the night, they confess past sins, fight (both physically and verbally), and ultimately find some semblance of the comfort they’ve been so desperately seeking. I had the opportunity to speak with Medina and Yepes about how the production came to be, the toll of performing such an intense piece, and what they think would happen in a sequel to the play.
Erin Conley, On Stage: How did you come to be involved with the production?
Hugo Medina (Danny): I’ve wanted to do this play for a very long time, since grad school. Oneday Sofia and I just kind of read the play, sitting on a couch, just to get a feel for it, and it naturally dropped in and felt crazy awesome, authentic, and connected in a way that was very
surprising to both of us. We started hitting up directors and theaters that we knew and we came across Fidel (Gonez), our director, and he seemed to be the only person more excited than I was about this play. We just knew we had to put our minds together to make this happen.
EC: Sofia, were you also familiar with the play beforehand?
Sofia Yepes (Roberta): No, I had never read the play before Hugo brought it to my attention. I read it first at home and I was kind of blown away. I’m sure you know Shanley’s work; he’s kind of intense. So yes, it was my first introduction, not to Shanley, but to Danny and the Deep Blue Sea.
EC: The play is obviously very intense, and I can imagine it must be very exhausting to perform. How do you handle that intensity from performance to performance?
SY: With lots of laughter, I think. Finding ways to laugh in between. With the physical stuff, we’re lucky that we had a great fight choreographer (Edgar Landa) so it’s not as bad as it looks, and with the mentally draining part about it, there’s not much that we can do except try to let it go at the end of the night and try to enjoy ourselves and the people who came to support and forget all about it Monday through Wednesday.
HM: There’s no way around the exhaustion, I think. I mean, it’s definitely draining for me physically and mentally, but because it’s been such an exciting journey, the exhaustion just ends up feeling really good. There’s an immense satisfaction that comes with it even if we are
exhausted and sweaty and bruised.
EC: While the play is very dark and dramatic, there are also moments of near-comedy. Do you have a favorite moment?
SY: My favorite moment in the play actually had a technical difficulty last night! When I go to the radio to set the mood for us to be romantic with each other, Taylor Swift was supposed to come on, and that’s my ultimate moment because I just turn around kind of like “yeah, you know this song.” I just love the pause in the intensity and really kind of sinking into that okay, we’re going to go into romance now, and just have fun with it. That’s my favorite part for sure.
EC: I didn’t even notice anything went wrong, you covered very well.
SY: That’s when I started singing!
HM: There’s a part where she says “you have such beautiful eyes” and he blushes and says “shut up!” It’s really the first time in the play where he kind of sheds a layer and it’s also the first comedic moment that’s supposed to be funny, because I think there’s some parts in the first scene that are funny without meaning to be. I just really have fun with that moment.
EC: The production is very immersive, with the audience right there in the middle of the action. Have you found that the energy of each specific audience affects the show?
HM: I feel like depending on who’s there—you know, when it’s family, it’s a whole other thing, but more than anything it’s just how engaged and connected the audience is that really makes a difference because we can feel it. We can feel the dead silence when it’s intimate and serious and we can feel the humor when they’re cracking up, and even when they’re feeling empathy or compassion for us that is completely felt.
EC: The play has a bit of an ambiguous ending, and Roberta and Danny’s future is left uncertain. What do you think happens to these characters after the end of the play?
SY: I had some friends come with their 18-year-old son. I was very interested to hear what he thought about the play. After the play they were discussing it and the parents and the grandmother loved it and were really into it and here comes their son and he says, “I hated it! It was too dark, it was depressing, it was horrible!” His family was like “what are you talking about? There’s hope at the end! It’s great, it gives us all hope!” He said “they’re not gonna make it!” I think for me sometimes I feel like we are and sometimes I feel like we’re not, like who are we kidding? I think it changes for me every night, to be honest.
HM: I think the beauty of the relationship and the ending is not so much if there’s going to be a happy ending or if they’re going to end up together, I think it’s just that for the first time in their lives they have a glimpse of hope. They start off being extremely violent and extremely
ashamed of who they are and in less than 24 hours they make a 360 degree shift where there are now possibilities in their lives. I think that’s the hope we kind of hope to leave the audience with, but along with that comes the reality of how messed up these characters are.
EC: Is there anything else we haven’t discussed that you’d like to mention?
HM: We were discussing what the sequel would be if we were to write what the relationship would look like a year from then, assuming they did get married, and how dysfunctional would that be but how full of love would it still be. And I think perhaps it’s that dynamic of dysfunction within love that perhaps a lot of families relate to that makes it such a unique relationship for the characters. I also just wanted to say this is the first time I worked with Sofia and it’s been such a joy. We allowed ourselves to surprise ourselves constantly and be vulnerable. I was saying yesterday how in order for this play to work you really have to allow yourselves to be really vulnerable with each other on stage.
SY: And trust each other.
HM: And trust each other, yeah. It’s taken a lot of courage on our end to just see ourselves be vulnerable on stage and commit so hard with the emotions and the violence and with our bodies and our hearts, and that’s been great.
This production of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea plays its final performance this Saturday, August 1st. For more information on LA Theatre Center’s upcoming productions, please visit theLATC.org.