Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Merging Old Values, New Technology

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Merging Old Values, New Technology

Article excerpt

The Internet has opened whole new vistas for playwrights, who can now tackle topics like the impact of blogs on literature.

That -- along with such toss-ins as the objectification of women and intergenerational lust -- is the subject of Laura Eason's busy two-character play "Sex With Strangers," which opened Wednesday night at the Second Stage Theatre.

Olivia (Anna Gunn of "Breaking Bad"), a college teacher in her late 30s, is staying at a remote bed-and-breakfast in rural Michigan. She's trying to finish a thick novel, which, in one of the play's several implausibilities, she intends never to show anyone.

Her first, published, book received mixed reviews and didn't sell many copies, and she's too spooked to expose herself to fresh disappointment.

Her aloneness -- the B&B's owner has conveniently left the premises -- is interrupted by the arrival of another guest, Ethan (Billy Magnussen), a loutish younger man who's driven all the way from Chicago through a fierce snowstorm.

Ethan, it turns out, despite his coarse language and hey-dude manner, not only knows how to read, but is a connoisseur of fine writing. (Magnussen's impulsive character is close kin to the unfiltered boy toy he played in "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike").

He loved Olivia's obscure debut novel, and has dropped in at the inn because he learned -- through an unlikely chain of events -- that she'd be there.

Ethan is known to the world through a notorious blog in which he recounted having sex with a different woman every week for a year. The blog became a best-selling book, "Sex With Strangers," and is in the process of being made into a film.

He's unknown, however, to Olivia, who, although only 10 years older, is presented as a digital Neanderthal and therefore the inhabitant of a different universe.

Although she's disgusted at his caddish behavior with all those women, made worse by sleazily writing about it -- her anger rises and abruptly fades several times during the evening, depending on her mood -- she's flattered by his regard for her work, and the pair have steamy sex on the living-room coffee table. …

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