Highly recommended What happens when two young writers encounter each other while at a quiet retreat? They are years apart in age, Olivia ( the adorable Sally Murphy) being the elder to Ethan ( deftly handled by Stephen Louis Grush), and lifestyles, but seem to have a sort of delayed action chemistry and what starts out as just a lapse for Olivia and a routing evening for Ethan becomes more, with dating and working together to make Olivia’s career rebound from her previous lack of the success she had hoped for. Ethan’s writing started out as a blog dealing with his “sexcapades” and grew to a major Internet hit, turning into a book and now into a movie- success!
With success comes power and there is no question that Olivia is in awe of Ethan’s power, not just as a lover, but as one that can bring her career back. She wants the success that he has. He reads her new book and takes it to a new level by using the internet and getting people involved by allowing response. His literary agent finds this to be a potential and begins to represent Olivia. While all this is going on, Ethan is in California working on the movie and as Olivia sees success in her future, a sort of jealousy begins to take place. He of her, for reaching a slightly higher degree of fame ( for the writing aspect, not the content) and she of him for his self assuredness, always believing that what he does is right!
Written by Laura Eason ( a member of The Lookingglass Theatre Company) this is a solid story about two personalities who come together, but even though one feels they “were meant to be” what they have never evolves to what they had hoped for. Directed by Jessica Thebus, who always gets to the heart and soul of the productions under her guidance, we find that this is indeed a strangers- lovers- strangers story. Both of these people use the other to attain what it is they think is best for them, but they never, despite lots of loving and discussion become partners in a relationship. They are from day one until the end, despite having a great deal of love for each other, strangers, who must take a different path so they can in the long run uncomplicate the web that have woven.
This is a beautiful story staged on a marvelous set (Todd Rosenthal) that serves as both a B & B in Michigan ( act one) and an apartment in Chicago(act two) with just some sligh adjustments. The lighting ( J.R.Lederle) is perfection and the original music ( Andre Pluess and Kevin O’Donnell) adds a certain charm to the overall picture that Thebus paints for us on the canvass in the Upstairs Theatre at Steppenwolf. What really makes this production work is the chemistry between the actors as they bring these two personalities to life. They are very different ( she is from the age where technology is still a mystery, he of the age where it has been in his life almost forever) Ethan has no qualms about “instant” writing, while Olivia, writes and rewrites her stories and maintains her privacy. She offers him a better knowledge of literature- romantic writing and he offers her an opportunity to gain fame, but at what cost?
“Sex With Strangers” will continue at Steppenwolf Upstairs Theatre through May 15th with performances as follows:
Tuesdays-Sundays at 7:30 p.m. ( Sunday evenings ONLY through April 10th) and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. ( there are Wednesday matinees at 2 p.m. on April 13th,20th and 27th as well as May 4th and 11th) SATURDAY May 7th-NO evening performance!
Tickets range in cost from $20*-$73 and are available at the box office located at 1650 N. Halsted, by calling 312-335-1650 or online at www.steppenwolf.org
* 20 for $20 program. same day purchase from 11 a.m. twenty tix are offered at $20 each
RUSH tickets , 50% off are available ( subject to of course) one hour before each show and students using the code “STRANGERS 15” can purchase up to two tickets at $15 each ( with ID)