Saturday, April 23, 2016
Writers in the 21st Century - SEX WITH STRANGERSBy Tinsel & Tine Editor, Le Anne Lindsay
I got a chance to see Laura Eason's play Sex with Strangers directed by David Saint, at the Philadelphia Theater Company (running April 8 - May 8th) and felt immediately taken with the comfy/cozy set depicting a writer's retreat on a snowy night. During our only snow storm of 2016, I was camped out at a luxury condo in AC overlooking the sea, where I could blog to my heart's content, so I could appreciate the lead character Olivia (Joanna Rhinehart) reclined on the sofa, in front of the fireplace, drinking wine and editing her book, while light snow flakes fell outside the window.
Olivia's tranquility is disturbed by the appearance of cocksure Ethan (Kyle Coffman) another guest at the Inn, who was no longer expected, as he arrived way past check in. He's got enthusiasm, charm and for a little guy, a hell of a lot of sex appeal. Although Olivia is at first put off by his presence and his "make yourself at home" overly familiar attitude; she's soon won over upon discovering they have a friend in common, and that Ethan has read her first book and loved it. Something she's interested in hearing, as that book did not do as well as she'd hoped and it's taken her a long time to get over the disappointment.
This potential for romance, flirtation and hot sex with a stranger was what was missing from my writing retreat. Although, the male masseuse who came to my room offered his services, but it's not the same when you have to pay for it.
Ethan is not only about 15 years Olivia's junior, but in PTC's production of the play, she's black and he's white, a fact that doesn't have anything to do with the issues that eventually affect their relationship. Pleasantly, they didn't feel the need to add anything to the play due to the non-traditional casting. Perhaps you sense the issue of race could be tied into Olivia's misgivings about the age difference, however, convincingly, what we mainly experience is just two people who found each other interesting and attractive.
Ethan is a blogger (with aspirations of being a novelist). He started a blog to prove you can still meet women in bars, as opposed to dating sites and apps, and that they will still sleep with you by the end of the night. The experiment and subsequent blog recaps, became so popular he was able to take his blog "Sex with Strangers" to the next level with a book and movie deal. Again, I totally related, as anything about blogs transcending the blogesphere and making money gets my attention. But this also speaks to my aversion to online dating. I still wanna believe, in-person attraction can still happen between myself and a man of any race. Unfortunately, after two years without so much as a coffee date, belief is obviously not enough.
Getting back to race for a moment, did you see this segment on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, where studies have shown men of all races are more likely to swipe right when coming upon a profile for an African American female - there's a unwarranted built in dating racism. Another reason why you'll not find a dating app on my mobile device.... and another reason why it was nice living vicariously through Olivia's meeting of Ethan.
So these were all things that made it a particularly enjoyable night at the theater for me, but average theater-goers will find a smart play about ambition and issues of trust in new relationships. Going into intermission, I have to admit to being skeptical as to if "Sex with Strangers" had the staying power for a second act. But Eason lays the ground work for conflict in small details during the "courtship" which make for a good dilemma in Act 2.
Dates and times for the remaining performances of "Sex with Strangers" can be found on T&T's #PhillyCalendar.
Ethan’s constant back and forth between person and persona is not just limited to live theatre. It’s indicative of a very common problem women face. Ethan (and many men like him) suffers from an extreme case of nice guy syndrome. He will hold open doors, lend you his jacket and dry your tears – so long as you return his affection. The second a nice guy doesn’t see his fruits of his efforts, he will quickly become the Mr. Hyde to his Dr. Jekyll. Ethan is able to placate this cognitive dissonance by insisting that he’s simply living up to his character, but as the show goes on, it seems increasingly harder for him to turn it off...- Frances Ellison is a writer at Philadelphia Weekly.
See More Stage to Page essays on Philadelphia Theater Company's Blog
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