A review of “Sex With Strangers” by the Crimson Square Theater Company, written by Laura Eason and directed by Benjamin Burt, through October 17 at the Beverly Hills Playhouse.
I think it takes a woman to write well about passion. Is it sexist? Maybe, but the Crimson Square Theater Company’s “Sex With Strangers” touches more than a little bit in the arena of sexism. A writer writes about writers. A chance to look into the minds of those who give us what is sometimes cynically called “content”. But these writers are real writers. Or at least one of them is. A novelist, working on her second book, whose first book has rather fallen into the water. A case of bad timing, bad agents and very bad book cover. A new writer, determined to establish himself as the real thing after spending years ‘blogging’ about having sex with complete strangers, then taking those blogs and refining them into a salacious book and incredibly successful.
The Setting, a writers’ retreat in the mountains of upstate New York. They are snowy, alone together, without wifi and without a host. Olivia, the novelist, doesn’t wait for Nathan, the sex blogger. At first, the atmosphere is very tense. Until Nathan confesses that he’s read his first novel, thinks she’s brilliant, and has organized all weekend to meet her.
Nathan is younger, ‘hot’ I guess that’s the term. Really, he had to be, to make his way through so many one night stands. Laura is saddened by her lack of success, and while she enjoys her job as a college teacher, she is aware that success seems to have passed her. So many writers of his generation are now in their fourth or fifth novel, established and wealthy. She’s retired, a place she often comes to, to finish her new novel, regain her confidence, and, once she’s found the two, find a new agent.
Nathan is there to woo her. He wants her and her new novel for its fantastic new literary application. A chance to recreate herself as a serious figure in literary circles and a chance for something real with Olivia.
It’s a very smart piece. Full of family literary atmosphere and the kind of brutal honesty that you can only really find when spending time with a stranger. The two wrap around each other until the inevitable happens. Then, surprisingly for them and for us, it gets much, much deeper.
Cameron Meyer who plays Olivia is really wonderful. She brings an ironic vulnerability to the role, filling her Olivia with humor, shyness and false bravado. The result is very charming and extremely believable. Casey King is brilliant as Ethan. Brash, smart and just as charming in that “Can you hold my shirt for me, man” kind of. Confident and cushioning in equal parts. He oozes sex, but acts like he doesn’t know it. Although, of course, he does.
These two disparate souls are fiercely drawn to each other, brought together by a shared feeling of not belonging. Olivia in the world of successful writers and Nathen in her world of serious writers. They both yearn for what they don’t have and together they create a new future for themselves, all while navigating this weird and budding relationship.
Meyer and King create a beautiful symbiotic relationship on stage. Intense and lively, sometimes raw and sometimes intellectual. They turn around each other, never giving anything until, tragically, they give almost everything.
Like I said, it’s a very smart piece. Sexy, intriguing and fascinating portrait of two people with totally different agendas, connected in a profound way, despite their armor and their cynicism.
The Beverly Hills Playhouse is a beautiful destination theater and the perfect location for this intimate, compelling, and very, very funny play. Skillful staging by Benjamin Burt, giving actors room to grow, but not too much. I highly recommend “Sex with strangers”. The game, not the act …
Crimson Square Theater Company’s “Sex with strangers.”
Until October 17
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m.
The Beverly Hills Theater
254 S, boulevard Robertson
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Benjamin Burt – Director
Cameron Meyer – Olivia
Casey King – Ethan
Freya Adams – Olivia lining
Derek Rivera – The Ethan Liner
Allen Barton – Director of Mentoring, Owner of Beverly Hills Playhouse
Faye Viviana – Executive Producer
Derrick McDaniels – Lighting Designer
SANDRA KUKER PR (Sandra Kuker-Franco) – Publicist