Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
Sex with Strangers
The setting for the first act of Sex with Strangers, presented by Cleveland Play House, is a bed and breakfast in rural Michigan. Olivia (Monette Magrath) is alone, reading. She hears a knock on the door. She lets the young man in. It's Ethan (Sean Hudock), who has a reservation for the bed and breakfast. The owner of the B&B is away, so the two are alone, a snowstorm is churning toward them, and the wifi isn't working. Agatha Christie would be proud.
Laura Eason has written a bright, sexy, thought-provoking script for two actors. She manages to keep a two-person script interesting and entertaining. The problems are adult, life-changing issues. She keeps a balance between Olivia and Ethanboth have problems and neither is concerned with mundane issues (money, spouse, children). Eason's characters wrestle with serious "I" issues.
As Olivia and Ethan get acquainted, each is revealed to be an author. Olivia wrote a successful novel and still has pains from recalling the biting unfavorable reviews. She has dismissed the favorable reviews. She can't screw up the courage to submit her second novel to the publisher. She's afraid of the critics.
Ethan wrote a smashing bestseller titled "Sex with Strangers." He is working on casting the movie of his big book, which evolved from a blog he writes. The book details how he arranged to have sex with a stranger once a week and blogging about it. He enjoys writing about each sexual encounter. Some of the women who were the subject of various chapters have formed groups (a fan club) and work to promote the book and raise anticipation about the movie. Ethan is writing a second book. Olivia pronounces it a serious novel and an about-to-be bestseller. Ethan's problem is his fear of the critics. The critics won't let him develop as a writer beyond his almost pornographic "Sex with Strangers."
Olivia and Ethan are likeable, lovable people. They are bright, talented and capable of living alone. But love and sex have made them more attracted to each other. The unseen critic remains a major power as they seek love, happiness, and a new agent to get the book published.
Many people fear the critics of their lives. Eason establishes an opportunity for audience members to look at their own lives and their personal critics. How much control do the critics have over a personal life or how much power do we permit our personal critics to have?
Olivia is older than Ethan. The age difference isn't an issue with Ethan. However, Olivia, in search of any reason to not establish a relationship with a man, insists the age difference is a problem for her. Can she get past Ethan's experimenthaving sex with a different woman each week and writing a tell-all book about sex with 52 strangers? This is partially answered on the stage and must be partially answered by each audience member in his/her own head.
Sex with Strangers is a romantic romp and a satisfying production.
Sex with Strangers runs through November 13, 2016, in the Outcalt Theatre, Cleveland Play House, in Cleveland's Playhouse Square. For ticket information call 216-241-6000 or visit Clevelandplayhouse.com.
Ethan: Sean Hudock