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Theater Review: "Sex With Strangers"

 “Sex With Strangers” (one of the ten most-produced plays in the U.S. this season) is smart, funny and thought-provoking.
Photo credit:
San Diego Repertory Theatre’s Lyceum Space

Is that really what it’s about? Well, yes and no. 

Laura Eason’s “Sex With Strangers” is also about the technology revolution’s effect on reading habits, and about whether a (human) snake can ever shed his skin and become something more socially presentable.

Eason introduces us to Ethan (Connor Sullivan), a blogger who once bet he could score with a different woman every night – and then wrote a book about it. That book stayed on the New York Times best-seller list for five years (which may be food for thought as well).

But now he’s working on a novel, and breezes into a snowy out-of-the-way B&B on deadline to get some work done.

There he meets Olivia (Lisel Gorell-Getz), a novelist in her own right who has a published book to her credit, but thanks to poor marketing, hers made no best-seller list and in fact barely sold at all. She’s  just finished a second novel.

“Sex With Strangers” plays through March 19 at San Diego Repertory Theatre. Delicia Turner Sonnenberg is in the director’s chair.

Ethan is horrified to learn that the wifi is out and there is no available Internet connection. Olivia is both attracted to his looks and repelled by his swagger, addiction to technology and take-charge attitude. It’s a match made … somewhere, right?

Ethan says he read her first novel twice “and I never read anything twice,” and begs to read her second manuscript. She refuses, definitely and firmly.

But she cannot escape the conviction that her first book really is as good as she thinks it is, and that all it needs is proper marketing to get it the attention she feels it deserves.

Gorell-Getz and Sullivan are perfect foils for each other. She represents the fast-disappearing world of printed books and the inestimable joy of holding a book and turning – even smelling – the pages.

Sullivan’s brash Ethan, a creature of the tech revolution, has made a sensational reputation and a pile of money. The question for him is whether he can turn the figurative page and go in a different, more serious direction.

Eason’s experience writing for the Netflix series “House of Cards” shows in the snappy and amusing dialogue style as the conversation moves from writing to marketing and the action to, yes, sex. She doesn’t waste any time. I appreciate that.

Kudos to director Turner Sonnenberg for finding the right actors and letting them do what fine actors do – engage the audience.

Brian Redfern should be singled out also for his evocative set designs for a mountain cabin and a city apartment. Anthony Jannuzzi’s atmospheric lighting and Kevin Anthenill’s sound design and original music make fine contributions as well. Anastasia Pautova’s costumes also look just right. 

“Sex With Strangers” (one of the ten most-produced plays in the U.S. this season) is smart, funny and thought-provoking, as it asks us to reflect on the increasing role of technology in our lives and its effect.

The details

“Sex With Strangers” plays through March 19, 2017 at San Diego Repertory Theatre’s Lyceum Space, 79 Horton Plaza, Downtown.

Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm; some Saturdays at 4 pm and some Sundays at 7 pm

Tickets: (619) 544-1000 or www.sdrep.org