Review "Sex with Strangers": Porn Storyline Goes to Blackout

Steppenwolf Theatre presents

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SEX WITH STRANGERS
In the upstairs theatre at 1540 N. Halsted
Written by Laura Eason
Directed by Jessica Thebus
Tuesdays through Sundays at 7:30pm
Saturday s and Sundays at 3pm
Thru May 15th
Buy Tickets
Running Time:  Two hours with a fifteen minute intermission.

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

What happens when a blogger seduces a novelist?  It's 'less likely they are fake and more like they are fiction.'  Steppenwolf Theatre presents SEX WITH STRANGERS.  Ethan has a popular blog, bestseller and a movie deal.  Olivia has an out-of-print novel and a drafted new one.   Ethan has gained fame because of mega sexual conquests and his own internet savvy.  Olivia has kept her day job and continues to teach in novelist obscurity.  Ethan is 24.  Olivia is 30-something.  A one night stand turns into a nooner followed by a date.  It's love at first f#ck as a couple of writers create their own story.  As Ethan helps Olivia access a broader platform of appeal online, offline he struggles with his own writing identity.  SEX WITH STRANGERS is the love child of "Star Is Born" meets "American Pie."

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Playwright Laura Eason has Ethan warn Olivia about editors pushing a formulaic storyline and Hollywood type ending.  Eason obviously didn't heed her own words.  Although some of the dialogue is smart and funny, the story is simplistic. For a show focused on sex, the sizzle is missing.  There is no build-up of tension. The foreplay is the absence of television and an internet connection.   It is I-am-a-man-you-are-a-woman-let-us-have-sex awkward.  The mechanics feel like an Afterschool Special promoting what happens when a boy and a girl are in a room alone.  How can sensuality between writers not be epic hot?  For their part, the writers are hot. A tattooed Stephen Louis Grush (Ethan) appeals with a raw masculinity.  A pretty Sally Murphy (Olivia) physically defies any recognizable age differential.  Unfortunately, Murphy's youthful presence eliminates an important friction plot point.  Although Jessica Thebus directs the comedic moments with sharp wit, the romance feels like a porn storyline that goes to black-out.    

SEX WITH STRANGERS has entertainment value like a light, frothy beach paperback.    It's a quick read with plenty of time to enjoy the scenery (by Todd Rosenthal).  Its first date perfect if a hook-up is the goal! SEX WITH STRANGERS establishes the inevitability of sex without foreplay.

A man with limited internet savvy, Joshua Volkers describes the show with 'google Tucker Max.'

 

Production photography courtesy of Michael Brosilow.

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  • Sounds like this one hit just a little too close to home.

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