Laura Eason’s sexy, funny grown-up fling Sex With Strangers heats up the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s 2015-16 season. The provocative new play runs through October 25, 2015 on the Playhouse’s intimate Thompson Shelterhouse stage.
SWS is an enticing exploration of identity and intimacy in the digital age. Little-known novelist Olivia and hyper-famous blogger Ethan could not be on farther ends of the literary spectrum. Ethan’s scandalous blog-turned-book, titled SWS, has graced The New York Times bestseller list for three years and has a high-profile movie adaptation in the works. The blog — based on a dare to pick up women in bars in order to have one-time encounters — has created a persona for Ethan that he would now prefer to leave behind. In spite of his early success (he is only 27), Ethan aspires to write with the literary merit of novelists like Olivia. Her first novel, praised by her peers, never received the public attention it deserved. Now a teacher and self-proclaimed “hobbyist” author at 39, she meets Ethan when they become snowbound at a cozy bed-and-breakfast in Michigan, and their mutual passion for words sparks a heated passion for each other. As they become entwined in each other’s careers, their literary and generational differences begin to clash, and complications emerge that test their relationship.
“Ethan is cocky and confident, yet able to be vulnerable and allow himself to get hurt,” says Playhouse Associate Artist and SWS director KJ Sanchez (Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club, Venus in Fur, Seven Spots on the Sun). “Olivia loves books and, although she is more reserved than Ethan, she is not prudish. She is as confident as he is, just choosing to live her life in a very different way.
“They are fully realized, multi-dimensional characters that are always surprising us. Just when we think we know who’s in control and who has the power, Laura Eason reveals other aspects to these people that surprise us all.”
Eason, who garnered acclaim writing for Netflix’s Emmy Award-winning drama House of Cards, is no stranger to writing strong characters. “The spark of the play actually came from an interest in exploring the exchange that takes place in any intimate relationship,” she told The Brooklyn Rail last year. “I heightened the situation by having both of them be writers of ambition who each want something from the other, personally and professionally.”
The SWS cast features Nancy Lemenager (Broadway’s Chicago, Movin’ Out, Never Gonna Dance, Kiss Me Kate, Dream, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Guys and Dolls), making her Playhouse debut as Olivia, and Nicholas Carrière, who appeared in the Playhouse’s world premiere of Abigail/1702, as Ethan. The creative team, in addition to Sanchez, includes set and costume designer Misha Kachman, lighting designer Brian J. Lilienthal and sound designer Matthew M. Nielson. Andrea L. Shell is the stage manager. SWS is sponsored by Schueler Group.
Ticket prices for SWS start at $35. Prices are subject to change, and patrons are encouraged to buy early for the best seats at the best prices. The show is appropriate for adult and older teenage audiences.
The official opening night is Thursday, October 1, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. Performances take place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sundays.
Free Meet the Artists programs that allow audiences to interact with the cast and others associated with the production will be held after the following performances: 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4; 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14; and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22.
The Playhouse is fully accessible. Audio enhancement receivers, large print programs and complete wheelchair access are available.
Tickets to SWS are on sale now. For more information, call the Playhouse Box Office at 513-421-3888 (toll-free in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana at 800-582-3208) or visit www.cincyplay.com. Call 513-345-2248 for Telecommunications Device for the Deaf accessibility.