Ethan is a 24-year-old author whose book, Sex with Strangers,
is on the New York Times Best Sellers list. His book began as a blog, which started as a challenge. The challenge? Seduce one stranger into having sex with him every week for a year. He then wrote about his sexcapades online for everyone to see.
Olivia is almost 40. Her well-crafted novel of critical merit wasn’t well received. She’s spent the past decade or so becoming an Emily Dickens of prose.
There is a bed and breakfast in rural Michigan where Olivia is holed up writing. Ethan arrives at it late in the evening, having driven through a snowstorm. One might presume it’s winter, but if Michigan is anything like Minnesota, it might be spring.
Snowed in without a connection to the outside world, the two connect horizontally and otherwise. Each one wanting what the other has and presumably, each other.
Could Olivia be just another conquest that Ethan will be writing about in a week? Might Ethan be little more than a helpful connection for a writer down on her confidence to have?
Absolute Theatre’s production of Sex with Strangers by Laura Eason is staged in the Rochester Civic Theatre’s Studio Theatre. Given the intimate feel of The Studio Theatre (it’s a black box), I felt like I had a front row seat to the hopes, aspirations, and romantic realities of two dynamic characters. Sex with Strangers, directed by Eric Decker, builds a quiet tension that’s riveting, real, and everyday all at once.
While Ethan (played by Dominique Jones) and Olivia (KariAnn Christensen) are the only two characters in the show, technology plays a role as well…
Screens come between Ethan and Olivia at times. It’s where they pursue ambitions, make plans, etc. In one scene, Ethan wants to go out to dinner, but has to wait until Olivia is finished communicating online. For me, that moment delivered the exact mix of tension and ambivalence that stirs in moments of my own life.
Quick Confession: Olivia says she’s about to be f-f- My thought was, “She’s way to young looking to be playing a 50-year-old. What is going on?” Then I remembered how old 40 seemed until I turned it.
Both Jones and Christensen bring such truth to their roles that I half-expected myself to be catching up with Olivia the next day at the coffee shop; and, to run into Ethan at some trendy bar. Maybe The Loop? I hope to see them both onstage in productions again soon.
All of the music used before, during, and after Absolute Theatre’s Sex with Strangers is created by local Rochester artists. The work of the following musicians is included: Jae Havoc, Yo$a, Treezy, Rude, Virgo, and Jane Gee. It was a great touch and introduced me to some wonderful music.
Do you ever find yourself surprised by the level of creativity and talent in Rochester? I do, though I shouldn’t be. There are many talented Rochesterites that I have the good fortune of knowing.
A big congratulations to Jones for being named one of the first U.S. Bank Future Leaders this year!
Sex with Strangers was written by Laura Eason. She is best known for her work as a screenwriter for House of Cards. Her feature film debut, Blue Night, produced by and starring Sarah Jessica Parker premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival tomorrow (April 19th, 2018).
One weekend of performances remains for Absolute Theatre’s production of Sex with Strangers. You can see it April 19-21 at 7 p.m. Tickets are only $20.