“Hudock, sprawled on a couch, follows this request by pushing an empty juice glass he’s found in the kitchen across a coffee table with his bare foot. (He shed his wet socks and boots upon arrival, making himself brazenly at home.) The seemingly offhanded gesture, and this production is filled with them, is pretty brilliant – it’s innocently flirtatious, and yet packs a carnal charge.”
– Cleveland Plain Dealer
Directed by Joanie Schultz, Sean and Monette Magrath star in Laura Eason’s two hander ‘Sex With Strangers’, now playing at Cleveland Play House through November 13, 2016. Scroll for reviews and photos. Click here for tickets.
A smooth, hard bod is helpful in the art of seduction. And Ethan (Sean Hudock), a lady killer by trade, is toned enough to bounce all sorts of currency off of – quarters, Susan B’s, pesos, whatever you’re into.
He barrels into a remote B&B in Michigan at the opening of “Sex With Strangers,” surprising Olivia (Monette Magrath), a reclusive author and the only other guest there, thoughtlessly tracking slush across the floor.
…Hudock, sprawled on a couch, follows this request by pushing an empty juice glass he’s found in the kitchen across a coffee table with his bare foot. (He shed his wet socks and boots upon arrival, making himself brazenly at home.) The seemingly offhanded gesture, and this production is filled with them, is pretty brilliant – it’s innocently flirtatious, and yet packs a carnal charge.
Directed with playfulness, subtlety and nuance by Joanie Schultz, “Sex With Strangers” moves like a red-hot page-turner; it’s a book you can’t possibly put down.
The actors deliver shrewd, emotionally resonant performances, enhancing the balanced, well-drawn characters Eason has given them. Hudock and Magrath don’t just appear to be having fun – and they should, what with all the physical and psychological thrusting and parrying they’re doing onstage.
They also seem to be speaking to one another. That’s because they’re listening to each other.
When actors don’t, even the tightest, most well-written play comes off as flaccid.
Eason offers no easy ending, but by that time, these unlikely lovers have seduced us into rooting for them.
As the lights come up on the thrust stage in Cleveland Play House’s Outcalt Theatre, revealed was a large comfortable room, and a woman snuggled up on a chair by a free-standing fireplace, reading a book. Outside a large span of windows, snow could be seen cascading down. Suddenly a car is heard and headlights glared through the window. Pounding is heard at the door. Who is there? What’s going on? Sounds like the opening scene of a mystery. But, no, this is the start of Laura Eason’s SEX WITH STRANGERS, a charming and intriguing play of “lust, love and the complex nature of identity in our digital-dominated era.”
Ethan, 28, is a charming, youthful stud with the personality of a playful puppy, who is a well-known blogger and has already written two best selling books that were on the New York Times best seller’s list for a record number of weeks under the pseudo-nom “Ethan Strange,” in which he reveals a series of sexual hookups.
He is like a hyperactive child, filled with braggadocio, possessing lots of charm.
The CPH production, under the adept direction of Joanie Schultz, is perfection personified. Schultz gets all instances of drama and comedy right. Nicely paced, she has blended the visual and performance elements into a joyous experience.
Sean Hudock, he of handsome face, gym-toned body and charming demeanor, was made to play Ethan. With a sly grin, a twinkle in his eye, and spoken charm, he brings Ethan to life. He is so good at making the audience “believe” that he cons us into trusting the character’s machinations. Once we think we have caught onto his games and pull away, we are brought back by his beguiling ways.
The chemistry between Magrath and Hudock is magnetic. They exude connection.
CAPSULE JUDGMENT: SEX WITH STANGERS is a well-written script which gets a compelling production. The acting is top-notch, the direction spot-on. The must see show will delight and tantalize the audience. It well deserved the standing ovation it got on opening night.
The Cleveland Play House’s intimate, subterranean Outcalt Theatre, at Playhouse Square, is quickly becoming the place where carnality and clever writing come together for an evening of mutual and consensual gratification.
Following in the footsteps of recent productions of David Ives’ psycho-sexual drama “Venus in Fur” and Sarah Ruhl’s sex comedy “In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play,” Laura Eason’s “Sex With Strangers” is on stage under Joanie Schultz’s superb direction.
The actors are busy seducing the audience, as well, by hinting at but never quite revealing their characters’ true intentions. We can sense an undercurrent of mistrust and tension as Hudock and Magrath recognize and ride the play’s shifting rhythms and dynamics, but it is never fully exposed until the end of this two-hander.
It is testimony to these actors’ fine performances and remarkable chemistry that Ethan’s virile arrogance is such a perfect fit with Olivia’s vulnerability that their mutual attraction seems plausible. And as the play evolves and each character’s’ strong suits and debilitating weaknesses shift power positions — artistically represented by an intriguing shift in scenic design — that, too, is believable.
At the end of Oct. 29’s performance, more patrons than usual appeared to be rushing outside for a smoke. If that isn’t a sign of a satisfying sex comedy, I don’t know what is.
Ethan (Sean Hudock) is like a little boy who is locked in a candy store. At first it is wonderful being able to sample all the varieties of sweet treats but soon he tires of this constant exposure to confection and wants something real in his life. After bedding over a hundred women in two years he is looking for a real relationship with someone who is his intellectual equal.
As for the production, it is excellent with both characters being aptly portrayed as real breathing human beings. Even the kissing scenes are authentic (due to a lot of rehearsing). The set design is amazing as it is transformed into a well appointed B&B into an upscale downtown apartment. Stay during the intermission to witness this amazing changeover. Joanie Schultz does a fine turn as director helping the actors find their voice.
Although seemingly implausible on paper (young stud beds late thirty year old within minutes of their meeting) it is the manner in which the action is portrayed that brings credence to the story. What at first looks like a romantic romp turns instead into a moral tale of burning issues as to what makes for a successful truly meaningful relationship that will stand the test of time. It is a good yarn for those who have been together “forever.”
Agatha Christie could not have done it better. And, in truth, Sex with Strangers has elements of a good mystery. Why do people fall in love? How do the most unlikely people find each other and suddenly realize they’re right for each other?
Laura Eason has written a bright, sexy, thought-provoking script for two actors. She manages to keep a two-person script interesting and entertaining.
Sex with Strangers is a romantic romp and a satisfying production.
The plot may be familiar, but Eason’s work is fresh from start to finish.
The cast is vital and electric, and so is the direction by Joanie Schultz.
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Cleveland Play House (CPH) to see their deliciously-provocative production of Sex With Strangers. Continuing along with their 2016-17 season, this contemporary romantic comedy takes a far departure from their politically-charged opener All the Way. Written by Laura Eason, Sex With Strangers dives into the physical and emotionally complicated relationship between polarized characters, Olivia and Ethan. Olivia, played by Monette Magrath, is a 40-year-old privy recluse who is seemingly on the brink of a midlife crisis due to her failing career in writing novels. On the other hand, her counterpart Ethan, played by Sean Hudock, is a fiery 28-year-old carnal blogger who found prosperity in his college heydays publicly journaling his sexually explicit encounters with women.
Scenic designer Chelsea Warren executed a beautiful set, creating what appeared to be a cozy log cabin made specifically for lovers in dire need of a romantic getaway. Olivia – who came to the bed and breakfast to start focusing on her next book – sits by herself in the living room, shrouded in the very dim light given off by the evening sun. As snowflakes begins to fall heavily, she curls up with a glass of wine next to a crackling fireplace, reading a book. Just as she gets started, an unsuspecting car pulls up to the cabin. Its headlights unnerve Olivia as they shine through the house’s large translucent windows. A young man gets out of the car and begins pounding on the front door. Alarmed, Olivia asks “Who is it?!” Cue the charming, irresistible, but annoyingly arrogant character Ethan Kane.
Both Monette Magrath and Sean Hudock carried out their roles with great precision, turning what could have been disarray and cynicism in the wrong hands, into a serious production of how people truly communicate in today’s digital age, especially when it comes to love and relationships. In a series of pushes and pulls, such as the ongoing conflict between Ethan and Olivia regarding their perceptions of public versus private, we see how different generations can be, even if they’re a decade apart in age. Schultz really nails the lifeblood of Sex With Strangers, however, in the way she presents the final scenes of the production.