Love among the literati: Writers find love between the words at plays at Stage West and Theatre Britain
by Nancy Churnin, Dallas Morning News, Jul 3, 2017
At Stage West, the regional premiere of Laura Eason's Sex with Strangers gives us two novelists in an unexpected encounter in a secluded, wintry inn — then pours on the heat, with a warning on the door about adult situations and language.
Sex with Strangers should prove a particular treat to literary insiders. The travails of modern publishing are on display when Ethan (Jake Buchanan), a commercially successful writer whose best-seller sprang from a sex blog, meets Olivia (Dana Schultes), a reclusive novelist who supports herself by teaching because her debut garnered mixed reviews and disappointing sales.
Olivia is 30-something, while Jake is in his 20s. They're drawn to each other physically and emotionally but with hesitation, at least on Olivia's part. She thinks she's too old for him. She craves his success but doesn't want to compromise her art. He talks about the future of e-books; she wants a book she can hold in her hand. His life is exposed on Twitter for hundreds of thousands of followers, while she's too review-shy to share her new novel.
Yet they revel as one when they see a retweet on their work by novelist Jonathan Lethem or land on a phrase that takes their breath away.
Appealing performances by Buchanan and Schultes dangle enough clues to build tension about what, exactly is going on between them, in addition to sex. Is there something each wants from the other to further their careers? Or is there something else Eason is saying about writing as the truest expression of a person's soul? The show premiered at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre in 2011 and had an off-Broadway run in 2014. It's yet another riveting choice in a bold season for Stage West.