It’s hard to imagine a story about an unsuccessful writer trapped in a blizzard being sexy. Yet that is exactly what Sex with Strangers invites you do. A simple set arranged to invite a closeness with the crowd creates the setting for two unlikely lovers.
The story follows Olivia, played by Danielle Slavick, and Ethan, played by Christopher M. Smith, as they sit trapped together in a cabin during a huge snow storm. Sure, it isn’t hard to imagine where this is going, but something more is… at play. Olivia is an unsuccessful novelist and Smith is a wildly successful 20-something blogger. Although the two couldn’t be farther apart, they’re so close together.
Another of the play’s central themes explores what happens when we are separated from our technology. In the absence of immediate information, guessing games are played. How much of their identities are trapped within the digital space? The play forcefully opens and closes on that note, with plenty of steam in between.
Sandwiched within passionate encounters are insightful moments filled with meaningful dialog espousing on the nature of what is old and what is new; in love, lust, and writing. Olivia and Ethan’s brief time together highlights the intense nature of human relationships, both under the covers and within society as a whole.
Slavick imbues Olivia with a calm authority. Her character is someone who knows her talent, but might not be confident in it, and she does well in displaying this dichotomy; she portrays a calm vulnerability that doesn’t betray the fire lurking beneath.
Smith, by contrast, brings a forceful bravado to Ethan – so much so that at times he overpowers the scene, rather than compliments it. That being said, many will quickly forget the subtleties of Smith’s portrayal once he steps out in ripped muscles and underwear sporting a noticeable bulge. Sex with Strangers makes sure there’s plenty of eye candy to accompany the brain candy.
Written by Laura Eason, a playwright and screenwriter whose other credits include House of Cards and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Sex with Strangers is a fun and romantic story that proves there is more to a book than its cover. It’s a fast-paced romp that will leave you blushing even as you contemplate the deeper questions surrounding casual encounters and modern truths in the digital age.
Portland Center Stage’s Sex with Strangers is playing in the Ellyn Bye Studio with regular performances running through November 22, 2015. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at www.pcs.org, 503.445.3700 or in person at the Gerding Theater at the Armory box office (128 NW Eleventh Avenue, Portland, Ore., 97209).
Regular tickets start at $40.Tickets for students and patrons who are 30 or younger are $25. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays (excluding October 25 and November 8); 2 p.m. matinees on select Saturdays and Sundays; and matinees at noon on select Thursdays. For more information visit http://www.pcs.org/strangers/.