Insecurities clash in KC Rep new production

By Bob Evans

The newest production for KC Rep, “Sex with Strangers” brings two conflicting personalities together in a secluded inn, known as a writer’s retreat, while a blizzard curtails outside communication, other than a land line.

“Sex with Strangers,” by Laura Eason presents in interesting premise for sex-filled spring break for a teacher, Olivia, played by Vanessa Severo, and a noted free-‘n-easy-stud, Ethan, played by CJ Elored. In the two-act play, Olivia confronts her crippling anxiety about publishing a second book after her first book failed to garner consistent positive reviews and circulation. Now, with second book in editing stage, her fears of critical negative feedback haunt her progress. As for Ethan, his nightly sexual conquests, boasted via his website, produced a plethora of followers, a successful semi-embellished, tell-all novel, a movie in the making, and his plans to pursue bigger and better goals with continued success.

Ethan knows how to turn on the charm because he’s done so since puberty. His exploits gained him a reputation. As the reputation grew, so did his conquests and his ability to notch up more than one girl a week. His devil may care attitude created a persona larger than life. Admittedly, he’s an ass. And then there is Olivia, modest in her lifestyle, focused on finding success as a writer, and hoping to create something lasting in the literary world. Basically, polar opposites, together in a snow-storm with only each other for company. What could be a better premise for having sex with a stranger?

For the KC Rep, Artistic Director, Eric Rosen handed this project to Chip Miller, making his second successful turn as director with “Sex with Strangers.” For his opening night, against the nearby Big 12 Basketball Tournament, Miller’s show drew a sold-out audience into the Copaken stage. The play started a few minutes late, possibly due to downtown traffic and the nearby game that ended just before curtain time.

“Sex with Strangers” opens with lots of activity and the nature of the play brings the opposing personalities together quickly and exploits their vast differences from the start. Their opposite characters find a mutual friend that leads to conversation, exploration, and sex. Both their past behavior and need for forward movement cause them to take the plunge and step out of their comfort zones to move forward. Each clings to past situations as a new frontier urges them forward.

The play’s focuses on what each character needs to achieve to find fulfillment and their concept of success. Can an insecure novelist find the fortitude to push for her goals? Will she meet success or another failure? Can a person who built a reputation as a carefree sex object change his lifestyle and redefine his path? These are the questions each character faces as the play progresses.

The fun part of this play lies in the questioning of each character, how he or she faces those challenges, and what can or cannot be altered in their journeys. The two actors create a chemistry that keeps their relationship blazing throughout. They ignite an awkward co-dependence that infuses their growth–separately and together. With lesser quality actors, “Sex with Strangers” could feel flat. With Severo and Elored the magic works.

Besides the actors, the technical aspects of KC Rep productions continues to produce exciting plays for their public. The sound design, the lighting, the set construction, the props, the staging–all create the total effect of a night of theater. Give credit to the production team for the behind the scenes work

The production team is led by Chip Miller, director; Brittany Vasta, scenic design; Sarah Oliver, costume design; Elizabeth Klein, lighting design; Cricket S. Myers, sound design; Stephanie Klapper, casting; Kelsey Brennan York, production stage manager.

“Sex with Strangers” runs on the Copaken Stage in the H&R Block building in downtown Kansas City, Missouri through March 25. Show times, dates, and ticket information can be found on the KC Rep website.
Tags: KC Rep, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, “Sex with Strangers”, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment

Images courtesy of KC Rep, Bob Evans and Cory Weaver and KC Rep

Author: Bob Evans

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