Sex with Strangers OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Sara Krulwich
  • Sex with Strangers
  • NY TIMES

  • EW

  • DAILY NEWS

  • VULTURE

  • TM

Opening Night:
July 30, 2014
Closing:
August 24, 2014

Theater: Second Stage Theatre / 305 West 43rd Street, New York, NY, 10036

Synopsis: 

How far will you go to get what you want? Will you be the same person if you finally do? When star sex blogger and memoirist Ethan tracks down his idol, the gifted but obscure novelist Olivia, he finds they both crave what the other possesses. As attraction turns to sex, and they inch closer to getting what they want, both must confront the dark side of ambition and the near impossibility of reinventing oneself when the past is only a click away.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Sex with Strangers

    Reading Between the Sheets Anna Gunn and Billy Magnussen Star in ‘Sex With Strangers’

    Charles Isherwood

    July 31, 2014: “Who are you?” Those are the first words spoken in Sex With Strangers, a twisty and timely new play by Laura Eason, and they cut right to the core of this two-character drama about lust, love and the complex nature of identity in our digital-dominated era. When a persona can be tweaked, primped or entirely fabricated online, it may be a little tricky to figure out exactly who is lying in bed beside you: a sympathetic soul, or just a brand with a hot body? That opening line comes from Olivia, played by Anna Gunn (of Breaking Bad), a writer holed up in a remote bed-and-breakfast, spying a car out the window. She is idly wondering who would brave a snowstorm to reach this informal writers’ retreat in rural Michigan. The visitor turns out to be Ethan, played by Billy Magnussen (best known as the Boy Toy of the Chiseled Abs in Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike). The simmering rapport these two talented actors develop quickly lights a fire under Ms. Eason’s drama of good sex and bad faith, which opened on Wednesday night at Second Stage Theater in a production directed by the actor David Schwimmer.

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  • ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY REVIEW OF Sex with Strangers

    Sex With Strangers Review

    Thom Geier

    July 30, 2014: When Olivia meets Ethan in the new Off Broadway drama Sex With Strangers, it's a clash of generations as well as genders. Olivia is a 40ish English professor polishing the thick paper manuscript to her long-delayed second novel. Ethan is a 28-year-old blogger–cum–best-selling wunderkind who is trying to move past his Tucker Max-like reputation for writing about his many drunken one-night stands. One blizzardy night, they find themselves snowed in together at a remote, wifi-less Michigan B&B—and despite the odds, the sparks fly. There is no reason that playwright Laura Eason's frankly sitcommy premise should work. And yet it does, thanks to fluid direction by David Schwimmer (yes, that David Schwimmer) and charmingly forthright performances by the two-member cast. (The show plays through Aug. 31 at Off Broadway's Second Stage Theatre.) Anna Gunn, an Emmy winner for Breaking Bad, projects both Olivia's outward strength as well as the telling cracks of vulnerability. And Billy Magnussen, a Tony nominee last year for Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, delivers a portrayal of millennial alpha-bro entitlement that is every bit as nuanced and chiseled as his impressive abs. He's particularly strong in articulating the youthful addiction to emblems of youth culture like smartphones. ''It's not that I have to make a call,'' he says upon learning of his off-the-grid state in wintry Michigan, ''but, I mean, my phone isn't working!''

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  • NEW YORK DAILY NEWS REVIEW OF Sex with Strangers

    Anna Gunn and Billy Magnussen's opposites are very attractive in Laura Eason's rewarding comedy directed by David Schwimmer

    Joe Dziemianowicz

    July 30, 2014: Sex with Strangers is a juicy summer beach play. You can’t savor it surfside, but just like a page-turner, this smart comedy pulls you in and keeps you wondering what’s coming next. The characters are fascinating, the coitus is hot — and, most important, there’s plenty of it. It’s a very entertaining play and showcased with a sure hand for Second Stage by director David Schwimmer, a theater pro before and after Friends. Describing the play in publishing terms is fitting, since it concerns two writers. Unsteady Olivia (Anna Gunn) was stung by critics’ reviews of her first novel. She’s finished a new work, but won’t let anyone read it. A decade younger and relentlessly cocky, Ethan (Billy Magnussen) is an open book (in this case, a blog). His best-selling e-memoir — its title give the play its name — recalls dozens of nameless girls he casually bedded and recklessly discarded. Ethan’s a jerk. Or he was. He maintains he was playing a role for his book, which he’s adapting for a film. Olivia isn’t sure that he’s changed one bit. But she still accepts his help to jump-start her literary career.

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  • VULTURE REVIEW OF Sex with Strangers

    Theater Review: Sex With Strangers Has a Sitcom Touch, But a Good One

    Jesse Green

    July 30, 2014: If you were trying to devise a light comedy for overheated August audiences (and theaters closing out their subscription seasons) you might do worse than a two-hander with a clickbait title and a chilly setting. Perhaps you’d have the curtain rise on an inn in Michigan as a March snowstorm casts cool blue light on a woman drinking a big glass of red wine while ice drips loudly off the eaves outside. Anyway, that’s what Laura Eason has done in Sex With Strangers, at Second Stage, making it seem, but only for the first few minutes, like part of the New York theater world’s late-summer ritual of dumping inventory too insubstantial for the rest of the year. For there is sexy Olivia, curled up in her stretchy separates, proofing the manuscript of her novel, for god’s sake. Is this a play or a travel ad at the back of The New York Review of Books? As it turns out, it’s a play, and a good one, cleverly flying just under the radar of “importance.” Which is also what the fortyish Olivia (Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn) is doing. After her first novel was “misunderstood” — i.e., mostly ignored — when it was published 15 years earlier, she gradually withdrew into the less ambitious life of a teacher, writing only as a “hobbyist,” stringing words together for her pleasure alone. Into that self-imposed literary cloister, a bit too obviously, bursts the requisite bad boy, banging at the inn’s door and several other points of entry. Though only eleven years Olivia’s junior, Ethan Kane appears to be from a different universe entirely, one in which smartphones and iPads are permanent appendages and sex requires no more deep thought or delicacy than a game of Angry Birds. Needless to say, Ethan (Billy Magnussen) is a Major Hunk; if books no longer have a physical form, this best-selling brah sure does.

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  • THEATERMANIA REVIEW OF Sex with Strangers

    Laura Eason's sexy and complicated two-hander stars Anna Gunn of Breaking Bad and Billy Magnussen of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

    Zachary Stewart

    July 30, 2014: First impressions are everything — but should they be? My first impression of Laura Eason's Sex With Strangers, now making its New York premiere at Second Stage Theatre, was that it is a predictable and self-indulgent excuse to sound off about the digital revolution and its negative human implications. I was dead wrong. Under the deft direction of David Schwimmer, Sex With Strangers is a probing and painfully realistic look at first impressions, modern relationships, and the trust needed to bridge the gap between point A and point B. Olivia (Anna Gunn) is a novelist turned college professor, watching over a friend's bed-and-breakfast in deepest, darkest Michigan. Her first book failed to find an audience when the cover art suggested Candace Bushnell and the pages delivered something much darker. Since then, she's been very protective of her work. When Ethan (Billy Magnussen) shows up on a snowy winter's night, her initial reaction is disgust. Ethan is a Tucker Max-style literary success story: That is to say, a jackass with a talent for prose. He gained a huge following by chronicling his sexploits on a blog. He then leveraged that into multiple book deals and a five-year stint on the New York Times bestseller list, all by the tender age of 28. He's staying at the B&B to finish up the screenplay for the film adaptation of his first book, Sex With Strangers.

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