By Melissa Groth
There isn’t much out there that hasn’t been blogged about. If it’s been done, it’s been written about, probably fabricated, and published on the internet for anyone to read. But there are the rare few who prefer to keep their lives off the internet and away from social media. Laura Eason’s Sex with Strangers is about the clash that occurs between the two ideologies when they meet, or what happens when a bibliophile gets snowed in with the blogosphere.
Olivia (Holly Twyford) is a published but unsuccessful writer who keeps herself and her personal life secluded, sometimes in a cabin in the woods. Ethan (Luigi Sottile) is a wildly popular blogger-turned-best-selling-writer, about ten years Olivia’s junior, whose fame is based on a year of having sex with strangers and blogging about it. In an effort to escape the demands of his daily life and focus on finishing a screenplay based on his blog, Ethan retreats to a cabin in the woods of Michigan, where he meets Olivia who is there proofreading (with pen and paper) her latest novel without any plans to publish it. The stark difference in personalities can’t stand up to the intimacy of being alone in a cabin in the woods together, and the two soon develop a chemistry that leads them to the bedroom.
Scarred by the poor reception of her first novel, Olivia tries to keep her work private; while Ethan embraces the attention– good and bad– that he’s received from the public for his books. However, the play isn’t just a commentary on private vs. public, keeping out of the limelight vs. revelling in it, Twitter vs. Tolstoy; it’s also a commentary on what it means to be a writer, and the intellectual and ethical struggles that can accompany that career.
The play revolves around the relationship formed between the two writers, but it’s not a romance. The relationship isn’t nearly as scandalous as you’d expect with a title like Sex with Strangers; rather, it’s poignant, insightful, relatable. The conflict between the two, whether it be in their relationship, their careers, or their privacy settings, is fascinating. The play tackles major issues within the three main narrative strands without ever feeling like it bit off more than it could chew.
The often hilarious dialogue is witty and incisive without alienating the audience. Twyford and Sottile hold the audience’s rapt attention with ease through the one hour forty-five minute play. However, there was a lot of pacing and movement that occurred throughout, which was perhaps meant to be further indication of personality differences (or similarities) between Olivia and Ethan, but tended to be more distracting than endearing. Nonetheless, the play is fun, smart, and wholly entertaining.