Monday, September 28, 2015

theatre review - SEX WITH STRANGERS - Stray Cat Theatre/Arizona Theatre Company - September 26, 2015

Tyler Eglen and Heather Lee Harper
photo by John Groseclose

 Click here for more information on this production that runs through October 11th.

"Laura Eason's play Sex with Strangers tells an interesting story about ambition and the need for praise and recognition set in the modern, somewhat ambiguous, world of technology. It is also an intriguing story of what happens when two strangers, with very different backgrounds, meet and end up basically helping (or is it using?) each other, though in very different ways. This is the first show in Stray Cat Theatre's 2015 season and also an interesting "meeting" of sorts, since it is Stray Cat's first co-production with the Arizona Theatre Company. Like the play, this partnership proves to be a very successful collaboration.  ...But Sex with Strangers isn't just about sex and how opposites attract, it is about two people who want to prove that they are someone other than what they are perceived as, and how they both believe that what they are currently working on will prove that. While the play could be tightened up a bit, with a few scenes running a bit too long, Eason has created realistic characters while also providing plenty of twists and intrigue throughout. The play also makes us change our minds several times on just who is using whom. Director Ron May has assembled a stellar cast and gifted creative partners, all delivering top-notch work. Under May's subtle direction, Heather Lee Harper and Tyler Eglen create realistic individuals, full of nuance. They also generate plenty of heat as a couple. Harper may appear at first to come off the best, since the part of Olivia is more the "victim" of the piece, which makes us immediately take her side and root for her success. But Eglen is just as good, especially in the second act, in showing the wounds he has, and his need to prove himself. Harper is exceptional at playing this wounded woman...Eglen has the right balance in portraying the arrogant but sincere Ethan. He is loud, rude, and forceful, yet full of charisma. Eglen makes us want to believe that Ethan truly wants to help Olivia, ...It's a tough part to play, yet Eglen succeeds...Creative elements are superb, with Eric Beeck's exceptional set design..Paul Black's lighting combines... to create appropriately shadowy nighttime scenes..while Danny Chihuahua's costumes are character appropriate and smart in showing the age difference between the two,...Pete Bish's sound design includes some excellent effects...Full of witty dialogue, Eason's play is a love affair about writing and two people who love to write, while also tackling the topics of public personas verses private identities, intimacy, and ultimately discovering how to prove who you truly are. Stray Cat Theatre's production features honest portrayals of these realistic individuals, clear, precise direction and exceptional creative elements. While it could be tightened up a bit, Sex with Strangers is never predictable, always interesting, and a great first partnership for two of the best theatre companies in Phoenix that tackle and present challenging new works."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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