The summer heat lingers well into fall with Fells Point Corner Theatre’s season-opening production of Sex with Strangers, a provocative two-hander romantic comedy/drama by Laura Eason (writer/producer of Netflix’s House of Cards).
Sprucely staged by Grayson Owen, intimately choreographed by Emily Sucher, and tautly directed by local Baltimore actor/director Patrick Gorirossi, the play centers around two cross-generational, mismatched writers who circumnavigate the timely complexities of modern relationships, gender politics, and career ambition in the digital age of the “new normal.”
Soon-to-be 40-year-old novelist Olivia (Kathryne Daniels) is making the most of her stay alone at a secluded bed and breakfast writer’s retreat in rural Michigan, proofreading her manuscript in between sips of wine and a self-amusing breakout dance session to The Pointer Sisters’ “I’m so Excited” when a sudden snowstorm unexpectedly propels an overly confident 29-year-old, social media-savvy blogger Ethan (Matthew Lindsay Payne) to the door.
Still bruised from her less than stellar online reviews of her first book, Olivia has retreated to teaching and writing as a “hobbyist.” Ethan, on the other hand, has enthusiastically embraced the opportunities revealed through self-promotion and marketing through the internet and has successfully landed a book and movie deal, chronicling his sexual conquests on his blog, “Sex with Strangers.”
Inevitably, not long after it is revealed that Ethan knows and admires Olivia’s work, sealed with the lack of any internet service, the two end up connecting physically and emotionally, accelerating full throttle with some twists and turns, more markedly in the second act when their lives and careers become complicatedly intertwined.
Both Daniels and Payne delivered convincingly engaging performances from start to finish. Daniels’ rendering of Olivia was richly multi-dimensional and absorbing, cautiously optimistic and self-protective though intermittently throwing caution to the wind; she had great presence and palpable energy that carried steadily throughout the production. Likewise, Payne’s swaggering portrayal of Ethan was pointedly counterbalanced with his moments of genuineness and generosity toward Olivia; he had many redeeming traits that offset his sporadically gauche comments and less than desirable past.
Engrossingly entertaining and unabashedly authentic, FPCT’s Sex with Strangers is slickly seductive and satisfying.
Running Time: Approximately two hours with a 15-minute intermission.