Sex with Strangers – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Playwright Laura Eason doesn’t pull any pillows or tender talk as she reveals her provocative play “Sex with Strangers,” warming up the sheets at the Westport Country Playhouse until Saturday, October 14. The title alone is almost too hot to touch. Be careful your glasses may steam up.

Jessica Love’s Olivia is happily snuggled in a Michigan bed and breakfast in the middle of a blizzard doing what she loves best: writing. She is working on a new novel, one she is keeping private and hers alone, after being hurt by comments made by critics about her first efforts. A little too sensitive and vulnerable, she is nonetheless guarding her newest words as a for-her-eyes only manuscript.

Into her comfortable sanctuary stumbles a total stranger, uninvited and unwelcome, Chris Ghaffari’s Ethan. He too has booked the writing retreat and he has every intention of staying there whether Olivia is agreeable or not. The two spar verbally as they each stake out their individual territory, much like two terriers in search of priority space.

It soon becomes obvious that Ethan didn’t just happen by, as he has a specific agenda. He has read her first novel and claims to be enamored by it. He is at the other end of the literary spectrum, having garnered success by posting a blog, that turned into a book, and now movie , about bedding a different woman every week for a year and then posting and bragging about the experience. While Olivia thinks he is despicable in his treatment of his bedroom partners, she cannot deny he has earned fame and fortune at their expense.

Why is Ethan really there? Can Olivia trust anything that comes out of his mouth? Inevitably, as the storm rages outside the chalet in the woods, courtesy of designer Edward T. Morris, a revolving set that later morphs into Olivia’s Chicago apartment, the pair connect sexually, setting the book pages wildly turning as both the sheets of the bed and the sheets of the manuscript turn steamy.

Being his brash, aggressive self, Ethan is also considerably younger than the more mature Olivia. His precious internet isn’t working, there is no television set and they can’t even find a deck of cards to play. What should they do? Hold a conversation and then get physical.

Their sensual dance continues, not without a number of missteps, forsaking the help of Arthur Murray or Cupid. Ethan claims he wants to help her regain her literary self-confidence and reenter the writing world she has abandoned. Olivia wants to believe him but his past is too tawdry to overlook. What will happen after the snow melts? Will their temperatures continue to rise? Director Katherine M. Carter keeps the heat turned up to a sexual sizzle as this fine pair of actors pour on the passion and power.

For tickets ($30 and up), call the Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off route 1, Westport at 203–227-4177 or 1-888-927-7529 or online at www.westportplayhouse.org. Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Read between the lines as these two writers journey to find the truths of who they truly are to themselves and to each other, as well as the faces they care to present to the world..

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