Ethan Strange (Stephen Louis Grush) is a young, self-centered Tucker Max clone with a sex blog-turned-bestseller and a movie deal. Olivia (Sally Murphy) is a bookish writer pushing 40 and working on her second novel, after her first was all but dismissed by critics. The gregarious Ethan and the reserved Olivia meet at a remote bed and breakfast in Michigan and hit it off over a few glasses of wine. Ethan longs to be a “serious” writer and admires Olivia’s more high-brow contribution to the literary world while Olivia is fascinated by the instant fame and success of Ethan’s dirty storytelling.
"Sex with Strangers" is a well-crafted examination of intimacy and connection during a time when we willingly expose much of our personal lives to the world via that little invention called the internet. Mac products are briskly integrated into the show: Ethan constantly checks his iPhone for new messages and laptops are always an arm’s reach away. At one point Olivia demands of Ethan, “Can we just focus on what’s in the room?!” Amidst the flurry of emails, texts, and phone calls that distract us in the midst of our most personal conversations, it’s no small question.
Under the direction of Jessica Thebus, these two superb actors spiritedly work their way through Laura Eason’s script, imbibing their characters with life and filling the show with memorable subtleties. When the hesitant Olivia makes the decision to let Ethan read her latest work after they’ve slept together, we can see how much harder giving up her book is than giving it up was. So, what’s intimacy? What’s personal? And what’s selling out? Eason’s script asks us all these questions and still feels both contemporary and real.