Pictured: Rich Holton and Nina O’Keefe. Photo courtesy of Citadel Theatre.
By Andrea Cain
It’s ironic to review a show in which a character completely ignores the reviews of his own writing. However, the thought-provoking work that is Laura Eason’s SEX WITH STRANGERS requires a thorough exploration. Set in the present, the audience meets two drastically different characters on a similar quest: finding quiet space to write their greatest works. Olivia (portrayed by the brilliant Nina O’Keefe) has a more practical approach. She sits with her wine and edits with pen and paper, hoping to tweak perfection from her words. Ethan (the commanding Rich Holton) has come to work; however, his medium is slightly different: He lives in the world of the Internet. In the absence of working WiFi, the two are forced to compare their writing experiences. Olivia is older, less technical and less influenced by the opinions of others. Ethan is in the middle of his twenties, entirely at the mercy of the social media animal. Their relationship is tense, but they recognize the talent in each other.
The play tackles the very relevant issues of outward persona and inward persona. It explores how exceedingly time has changed the way we interact with other human beings. Olivia does not understand the idea of having two personalities. She is precisely who she is, and her writing shows her passion. Ethan, on the other hand, has two lives. He has his character that the social world sees —
what he puts on Twitter and Snapchat and his blog — and then he has the serious writer, the man he wants the world to know as a legitimate author.
The battle with life experiences while still attempting to relate to one another is compelling. Enthralling even. The direction under Scott Westerman is so well done that even after a somewhat predictable first act, the audience has plenty to talk about during intermission, and again after the final bows. The simple set, designed by Sotirios Livaditis, allows the story to shine. A relatable, introspective work, SEX WITH STRANGERS is highly recommended.
SEX WITH STRANGERS runs through March 4th. For more information visit citadeltheatre.org.