PROVOCATIVE ENTERTAINMENT: “SEX WITH STRANGERS”

BONNIE GOLDBERG

With a provocative title like “Sex with Strangers,” you come to the theater with specific expectations clearly in mind. While playwright Laura Eason certainly knows how to warm up the sheets, her primary motivation is to create a sensual dance between a pair of characters, a woman and a man, both writers but seemingly at two opposite ends of the literary spectrum. Hartford TheaterWorks will set the book pages wildly turning until Sunday, April 17 as both the sheets of the bed and the sheets of the manuscript turn steamy.

Courtney Rackley’s Olivia, a teacher by day and a writer by night, has been burned by the critical reviews of her first novel. Too sensitive and vulnerable, she has taken to heart the book’s less than successful debut. Now she is the throes of a snow storm, comfortably snuggled in and alone in a writer’s retreat cabin in Michigan. As she proofreads her newest work, one she is guarding from the world, a for-her-eyes-only, her solitude is disturbingly interrupted.

Enter Patrick Ball’s Ethan, a brash, young, aggressive intruder, one who has an agenda of his own. Who is he and why has he come in the middle of a blizzard? Olivia feels she has the right to demand answers. The internet is down, the television is nonexistent and they can’t find a deck of cards. What should they do? Hold a conversation and then get physical.

Ethan is a blogger who wrote about his exploits with the fairer sex and is dared to bed a woman every week for a year. The result is his New York Times best selling expose “Sex with Strangers.” Olivia is immediately appalled by his crass treatment of females and yet a little titillated by his success. When Ethan confesses they share a mutual friend, that he has read her novel not once, but twice, when he showers her with a well practiced line of charm, what is a woman to do?

Their sensual dance continues, with many a misstep, without the help of Arthur Murray or Cupid. He wants to help her regain her literary self-confidence and reenter the writing world she has abandoned. She wants to believer him but his past is too tawdry to overlook. What will happen when the snow melts? Will their temperatures continue to rise? Director Rob Ruggiero keeps the heat turned up to sizzle as the fine pair of actors exude passion and power.

For tickets ($40-65, student rush $15), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org. Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 p.m and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Come early to see the deeply personal photographic portraits that are on display and for sale in the upstairs art gallery, by Emma Mead, the emmaexperience.com.

Read between the lines as these two writers journey to find the truths of who they truly are to themselves and to each other.

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