Sexy meets clever in local production of 'Sex With Strangers'

How connected is too connected in the age of smart phones and social media? Can people ever truly be who they claim to be in a generation oversaturated with likes, comments and shares? 

In its opening weekend, the play "Sex With Strangers" sought to answer these questions and more in a collaboration between Stray Cat Theatre and Arizona Theatre Company. While it ended without definitive answers, it explored both sides of the argument with impressive success.

Describing itself as, "a new comedy about the calculations people are making to find love and fame in an age of social media, brightly lit smartphone screens, and virtual worlds," the play opens when a snowstorm traps Olivia (Heather Lee Harper) and Ethan (Tyler Eglen) in a Michigan bed-and-breakfast. 

Without Internet, the two bond over their shared love of writing. As time goes on, their chemistry is undeniable and the conversation quickly turns physical. However, when they return to normal life at home, their one-night-stand-turned-relationship is threatened by their different approaches to the online world.

To address the elephant in the room: yes, the play was based on physical attraction. Yes, it got pretty saucy. If that's your thing, you'll likely enjoy the superb chemistry between Olivia and Ethan. As the only two characters in the play, their verbal and physical relationship is the foundation for everything else that takes place. Thankfully Harper and Eglen do a terrific job of playing off each other and expressing their characters' emotions physically.

(It doesn't hurt that both of them are smoking hot, either.)

If the thought of watching two actors get intimate onstage is unappealing, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the play. The physical aspects, while heated, are brief and mostly limited to passionate kissing. The audience can easily infer when the characters are going that direction, but the actual sex is carefully plotted in between scenes.

The physical connection factors less into the production than the verbal sparring between Olivia and Ethan. The two of them basically banter nonstop for two hours, alternating between fighting, flirting, debating and seducing each other. It's an extraordinary feat for two actors to demonstrate such energy and endurance. 

In a production without flashy musical numbers, ensemble side-shows or attention-grabbing props, it's up to the actors to drive the plot forward. "Sex With Strangers" manages to captivate its audience for the entire two hours.

There were a few times when it felt as though the actors were searching for words or reciting the script, especially in the beginning, but that can be chalked up to opening night anxiety. As the play continues its run, the actors will probably find themselves able to focus less on the words and blocking and more on building that authentic rapport between their characters.

The theme of the play is based on an interesting commentary regarding how social media can hurt our ability to actually socialize. Phones and the Internet were meant to improve our ability to connect, but "Sex With Strangers" argues that they can cut us off from each other just as easily. 

Millennial audiences will likely find the dynamics relatable. What someone writes on their Facebook or Tinder can be very different from what they present in real life — but which persona is more valid? While the play doesn't (and can't) answer that question definitively, it offers food for thought.

Overall, it was an absorbing performance, especially for opening night. The actors brought their energy and emotions to the stage to offer a fresh perspective on the problems of social connections in the digital age. It was funny, bold, clever and provocative.

Read more: 'Sex with Strangers' is more than shock value as ASU alumni explore technology and relationships


Reach the reporter at skylar.mason@asu.edu or follow @skylarmason42 on Twitter.

Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on Twitter.


Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.

×

Notice

This website uses cookies to make your expierence better and easier. By using this website you consent to our use of cookies. For more information, please see our Cookie Policy.