Just the title of Laura Eason’s play at the Westport Country Playhouse is enough to draw attention. “Sex with Strangers” is about a young man who has sex with strangers, and tells all in his blog. Sure, one could point out how timely it is because the characters are on their cell phones, iPods, and laptops, but overall, there’s not much here to recommend it.
Ethan is a young ambitious man in his 20’s who has a blog about the strangers he meets at a bar and has sex with. It becomes a big deal with a publisher picking up the story and even a film is in the works highlighting his sexual exploits. He is a charming fellow. When he meets Olivia, a serious writer in her 30’s, he introduces her to the power of the Internet. Ethan definitely knows his way around the Internet and knows how far reaching it can be since it has the potential to draw millions to a site.
As both characters become more involved in each other’s lives, accented with sex, sex and more sex, one sees competition of the two writers rearing its ugly head. She draws the top publishers, while his work is trashy and the movie even trashier. However, they both owe their success to the Internet, which is also a statement on how difficult it is to get good work published today.
The play also addresses how hard it is to keep anything private. Everybody seems to know everything about everyone thanks to the computer. These characters look up each other’s past with a click to the Internet. This digital age is definitely a far cry from what it was only a few years ago. People could know everything about you before they ever meet you in person.
The play also attempts to bring a feminist issue to light regarding how badly women are talked about in Ethan’s blogs, but it comes across as nothing more than an afterthought. It’s too little too late.
Katherine M. Carter directs the play, and in spite of it being all dressed up and performed exceedingly well, the play is mediocre at best. What works are the fine performances delivered by Jessica Love and Chris Ghaffari. Both actors portray their characters so well that you believe they exist. She is a smart conservative woman and he is a charming young man who has a way not only with computers, but with women.
Edward T. Morris’ set design is exquisite. The set, which features the interior of an elaborate A-frame chalet/bed and breakfast, revolves during intermission and transforms into the interior of a book filled Chicago apartment. Caitlin Cisek’s costumes reinforce the personalities of the characters and Alan Edwards lighting design along with Beth Lake’s sound design punctuate the mood and action exceedingly well. “Sex with Strangers” plays through Oct. 14. Box office: 203-227-4177
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org