TR Robertson …Closing out San Diego Repertory’s 41st season are two high energy, thoughtful and intriguing plays written by two of the United States most acclaimed women playwrights, Laura Eason and Karen Zacarias. Currently on stage at the Lyceum Theatre, in downtown San Diego, is “Sex with Strangers”, by Laura Eason, a play that looks at relationships, opposite attractions, technology and its influence on the dating scene and the moral issues surrounding relationships. Several of the more interesting relationship issues brought up is just how much about a person’s past do you really want to know and how much you want to hold against someone if you discover unsettling past issues.
The comedy stars two veteran actors, Lisel Gorell-Getz and Connor Sullivan. Lisel is a veteran of San Diego Rep performances as well as other local theatres. Playing Olivia, a teacher still waiting for her big break-thru as a writer, currently not involved in any relationships and approaching “the big one – 4-0”. Olivia’s quiet retreat to a rural Michigan cabin will be interrupted by an over-the-top blogger, Ethan, a 28 year old new millennial, who has become successful with the creation of a blog about his relationship hook-up, once a week “sexcapades”, that turned into two highly successful books, Sex with Strangers, which landed him on the best seller list. Ethan is played by Connor Sullivan, making his San Diego Rep debut and veteran of numerous San Diego County theatre performances. From the minute Ethan enters and every minute in between, Olivia and Ethan are both at one another’s throats and falling for one another. Lisel and Connor are a perfect fit, funny and impressive as two individuals, with different moral backgrounds, different technology issues, and different views on relationships. Ethan freaks out when we first see him as he finds out there is no internet connection in the cabin due to the snowstorm. We later find out that he has also sought out the cabin to both finish a screenplay about his novels and because he found out Olivia was at the cabin, a novelist he had read and fallen for even though he had never met her. Ethan and Olivia have a heated and exhausting exchange on the publication of Olivia’s newest novel and Olivia’s reasons behind her reluctance. They both enjoy hard copy books, especially the smell; but when Ethan gives Olivia a gift, later in the play, Olivia remarks that the computer “smells like the future”.
Photos by Daren Scott
What will ensue at the cabin will be the development of a fondness for one another based on a mutual love of books and writing. One thing will lead to another and “bada-bing, bada boom” the snowed in weekend becomes more interesting. The sexual tension grows stronger as each of them continues to search for what is missing in their life, both professionally and romantically. Out of this, numerous questions will arise about both of their lives, questions that everyone must think about in any relationship. Questions such as – “How well do you really know someone?”, “What are you willing to go through to get what you want?”, “Can you believe someone all of the time?”, “How much about a person’s past life do you really want to know?” (Assuming they are not a serial killer or worse), and the age old question “Does age make a difference in relationships?” Numerous funny situations arise in the play dealing with Olivia’s lack of technological, new age knowledge and Ethan’s impressive technological knowledge, which can assist Olivia in reaching her goal of being a successful published writer. In one scene, Olivia will speak about the disappearance of hard copies of books, newspapers, CD’s, tapes, vinyl records (which are making a comeback) and everything “older”; a feeling many of us can identify with. Back and forth they will go, passion vs common sense, taking a risk vs complacency, age vs youth and the moral struggles it brings, and the past vs the future. With conflict building, Ethan tries to sum up their relationship when he says to Olivia, “Your book made me love you and my book made you hate me”. What and who will win or lose in the end will leave you guessing and remembering a journey many have been on in their romantic and professional lives.
Playwright Laura Eason is a successful writer and director. She is the former Artistic Director of the Looking glass Theatre Company in Chicago and has won numerous awards in the Chicago area. She has written over 20 full length plays and was a screenwriter for several seasons of “House of Cards” on Netflix. Ms. Eason is a former Playwright of the Year with Broadway Play Publishing.
Directing “Sex with Strangers” at the Lyceum is Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, the founding Artistic Director of MOXIE Theatre and a returning director of other San Diego Rep productions. She has also directed in other San Diego County theatres. Designing a classic winter bed and breakfast cabin for Act I and a Chicago apartment living room for Act II was Scenic Designer Brian Redfern along with effective lighting setting a variety of moods, Lighting Designer Anthony Jannuzzi.
The award winning Lyceum Theatre is located at 79 Horton Plaza and has recently gone through a beautiful renovation of their lobby and waiting area. Tickets for the performance can be purchased at 619-544-1000 or go to www.www.sdrep.org.