The phrase “Sex with Strangers” probably conjures up images of sketchy bars and dingy hotel rooms.
The Kansas City Repertory Theater’s newest production, however, begins in neither of those places. Rather, “Sex with Strangers” begins in a cozy log cabin inn with a roaring fireplace.
The strangers in question are Oliva (Vanessa Severo), a 39-year-old teacher, and Ethan (CJ Eldred), a 28-year-old blogger. They find themselves stuck at the inn when a snowstorm makes it impossible to travel.
Both are incredibly inconvenienced. Oliva is annoyed Ethan is disrupting her private vacation time, while Ethan stresses out because he can’t connect to the internet.
At first, the two take out their frustrations with back and forth banter. Once their conversation turns civil, they discover a shared a love for writing. Soon, they begin a rollercoaster of a relationship, and the audience watches as Olivia and Ethan go through their inevitable ups and downs.
The play explores the generational gap between Ethan and Olivia. Ethan reminds me of the authorial equivalent to a stereotypical frat bro, writing mostly about his sexual exploits. Olivia is worn down by her past experiences, and refuses to allow anyone to read her novels because of the harsh criticism she received in the past.
The two play off each other well. Eldred gives Ethan a youthful naivety, and we watch as Olivia’s artistic knowledge helps him grow.
“Sex with Strangers” will garner different interpretations from different theatergoers. Older audience might be more inclined to understand Olivia and her realistic view of the world, while younger audiences more easily relate to Ethan and his determination to pursue his heart’s desire.
“Sex with Strangers” runs now through March 25 at the Copaken Theater. For tickets and more information, check out kcrep.org.