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Time Out Theater Review: 'Sex With Strangers'

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David Schwimmer, best known for his role as Ross on the hit series "Friends," is currently working behind the scenes, directing the Second Stage Theatre's production of a new play called "Sex With Strangers." Time Out New York's David Cote filed the following review for NY1.

Credit where credit's due: The title of Second Stage Theatre's "Sex with Strangers" does not lie. This relationship drama starts with a couple of strangers, and within half an hour, they have sex. And again, and again. Don't think Laura Eason's play is only about what happens between the sheets, unless you mean between sheets of paper.

At first blush, the play might seem like theatrical chick-lit, but it's actually a critique of how literary culture has been both revitalized and atomized by the ease of distributing e-books, at the expense of depth. Likewise, quick, dirty and digital 21st-century publishing is the metaphor for the torrid affair between Olivia, played by Anna Gunn, and Ethan, that’s Billy Magnussen. They meet cute at a rural Michigan bed and breakfast.

Olivia's once-promising career as a novelist is stalled, but the younger Ethan is a social media rising star for his bestsellers about, you guessed it, hooking up with random women. She represents old-fashioned physical books, art and love. He represents apps, cheap entertainment and intense but meaningless sex. When they start an affair, will anything good come of it?

The setup might sound schematic, but Eason endows her characters with wry intelligence and throws in enough misdirection to keep us wondering about true motives, or if there is a chance for lasting romance. David Schwimmer directs his attractive, likable and versatile actors to maximum effect. The production looks gorgeous, moves swiftly and yes, it's quite sexy.

Like a good book, "Sex with Strangers" keeps you hooked from chapter 1. And you might not call it great literature, but it is a total page-turner.

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