A review of Crimson Square Theatre Company’s ”Sex With Strangers,” written by Laura Eason and directed by Benjamin Burt, running through October 17 at the Beverly Hills Playhouse.
I think it takes a woman to write about passion well. Is that sexist? Perhaps, but Crimson Square Theatre Company’s “Sex With Strangers” does dabble more than a little in the sexism arena. A writer writing about writers. A chance to look inside the minds of those who give us what may sometimes now be cynically refered to as ‘content.’ But these writers are real writers. Or at least one of them is. A female novelist, working on her second book, whose first book fell rather by the wayside. A case of bad timing, bad agents and a very bad book cover. A new writer, determined to establish himself as the real thing after spending years ‘blogging’ about actually having sex with total strangers and then taking those blogs and honing them into a salacious and incredibly successful book.
The setting, a writers’ retreat in the mountains of upstate New York. They are snowed in, alone together, with no wifi and no host. Olivia, the novelist, is not expecting Nathan, the sex blogger. At first, the atmosphere is very tense. Until, that is, Nathan confesses that he has read her first novel, thinks she is brilliant and has engineered the entire weekend in order to meet her.
Nathan is younger, ‘hot,’ I suppose is the term. Really, he had to be, to charm his way through so many one night stands. Laura is saddened by her lack of success, and, although she loves her college teaching job, she is aware that success seems to have passed her by. So many writers of her generation are now on their fourth or fifth novel, established and wealthy. She is at the retreat, a place she often comes, to complete her new novel, find her confidence and, once she has found both, find a new agent.
Nathan is there to woo her. He wants her and her new novel for his fantastic new literary APP. A chance to recreate himself as a serious figure in literary circles and a chance for something real with Olivia.
It’s a very clever piece. Full of familial literary atmosphere and the kind of brutal honesty you can truly only find when spending time with a stranger. The two of them spiral around each other until the inevitable happens. Then, surprisingly to them and us, it becomes much, much deeper.
Cameron Meyer who plays Olivia is really wonderful. She brings a wry vulnerability to the role, filling her Olivia with humour and shyness and false bravado. The result is very charming and extremely believable. Casey King is brilliant as Ethan. Brash, clever and equally charming in that “can you hold my shirt for me man” kind of way. Confident and depreciating in equal amounts. He oozes sex, but acts like he doesn’t know it. Although, of course, he does.
These two disparate souls are fiercely attracted to each other, drawn together by a shared sense of not belonging. Olivia to the world of successful writers and Nathen to her world of serious writers. They both pine for what they don’t have and together they create a new future for themselves, while they navigate this strange and burgeoning relationship.
Meyer and King create a lovely symbiotic relationship on the stage. Intense and vivid, at times raw and at others intellectual. They circle each other, never quite giving anything away until, tragically, they almost give it all away.
Like I said, it’s a very clever piece. Sexy, intriguing and a fascinating portrait of two people with totally different agendas connecting in a profoundly deep way, despite their armour and their cynicism.
The Beverly Hills Playhouse is a gorgeous destination theatre and the perfect place for this intimate, compelling and very, very funny play. Deft direction by Benjamin Burt, giving the actors room to grow, but not too much. I highly recommend “Sex with Strangers.” The play, not the act…
Crimson Square Theatre Company’s “Sex with Strangers.”
Running through October 17
Friday and Saturday at 8PM, Sunday at 7PM
The Beverly Hills Playhouse
254 S Robertson Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Benjamin Burt – Director
Cameron Meyer – Olivia
Casey King – Ethan
Freya Adams – Understudy Olivia
Derek Rivera – Understudy Ethan
Allen Barton – Mentoring Director, Owner of Beverly Hills Playhouse
Faye Viviana – Executive Producer
Derrick McDaniels – Lighting Designer
SANDRA KUKER PR (Sandra Kuker-Franco) – Publicist