NY Theater Review: Sandi Durell
Laura Eason’s play, “Sex With Strangers” at 2econd Stage Theatre, portrays challenges of how one perceives love and sex in this modern arena, the problems inherent when there is too much knowledge and communication, and some quid pro quo. Take two unlikely candidates for a relationship and watch what happens when thrown together on a cold snowy winter’s night at a B&B in a remote location. The pair in question: a 39 year old conservative teacher with a penchant for Marguerite Duras, whose first novel, not receiving the reception she had hoped, has reverted to staying closeted on a second novel. The B&B location is little known but to writers who seek the quiet. Thin and svelte Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) plays Olivia whose peaceful evening is disrupted when the quirky, comically adept Ethan (played by the recent boy toy in Vanya, Sonia, Masha & Spike – Billy Magnussen) arrives, immediately displaying his 28 year old arrogant, “asshole” self. He is comical in his child-like attitude of disbelief in not being able to connect to WiFi – “people will think that I’m dead” – as expletives fly unbridled to Olivia’s disbelief and disgust.
It seems that this self-absorbed young pain in the butt is a well known writer, with over 1/2 million followers on the internet because he turned his blog of weekly sexual ex-rated encounters into two best selling books (still on the best seller list for 5 years) and has arrived at the B&B to finish up the screen play. And, as it happens, he has already read Olivia’s novel – more disbelief – as the relationship begins to reve up and this fatal attraction simmers and explodes.
He’s not exactly a shy type who takes no for an answer as he comes on to Olivia. As she begins to relax, somewhat stunned and turned on by his charming repartee and achievements, it appears that their sexual encounters (and there are several, hot and steamy) might be just another sequence in his continuing “Sex With Strangers” writings and screen play. But will it?
Ethan is also developing an App for an e-book launch and wants to use Olivia’s first novel as its introduction as well as promising to introduce her to his agent, building her ego and her trust in him. That’s a lot of enticing!
Both Gunn and Magnussen are magnetic performers and the two plus hours (with intermission) keep the audience involved and laughing and, at times, suspended in disbelief. Laura Eason (a writer for TV’s House of Cards) is right on the money as directed by David Schwimmer in this smooth-talking, easy handed approach to intimacy and truth.
“Sex With Strangers” extended thru August 31st at Second Stage, West 43rd St. (off 9th Ave.), NYC
*Photos: Joan Marcus