Photo by Douglas C. Liebig
ALBANY — A coy, coquettish, and cheery welcome is made encouraging everyone to come again to Capital Repertory Theatre. Someone in the audience catches the spirit of double entendres whispers “hey, if I show up to a play called “‘Sex With Strangers,’I’m going to come.” Those who hear in the back rows titter.
Black out. Lights slowly and dimly come up.
The head of a four point buck (male deer with antlers) stares at you from the wall above the mantle piece. A low fire burns lowly and lazily in the fireplace below the mantle. The wall is full of faux field stones amply mortared with building adhesives. The tastefully done minimalist living room has the requisite exits and entrances for a stage set. The B&B’s service desk is small and empty, placed upstage center in front of a window. To stage-left is the narrow entrance door. The program states the setting is “Now…A week in March in rural Michigan.” A blizzard occurs. The only sound’s the sweep of easy wind and downy flake. Somewhere Robert Frost smiles.
The program states the women wearing reading glass resting in frumpy lavender slippers, pj’s and a shawl on the sofa facing the audience is Olivia (a game Jenny Strasbourg). She sips red wine and reads.
Suddenly a stranger calls from the storm beyond the door of the deserted B&B; Olivia says “I’m coming,” and soon in steps a man doing an Owen Wilson as a brunette imitation; the program states it is Ethan played by Ben Williamson, a 20-something collection of angles, smirks, grins, swagger and well-coiffed hair products. “F**king blizzard” Ethan says sounding like Owen Wilson, or the Dazed and Confused Matthew McConaughey doing an imitation of Owen Wilson. “You shouldn’t be rutting around in the kitchen,” a worried Olivia states. “Am I seeming like a d*ck?” Ethan states. Ethan finds to his dismay that there is no Wi-Fi connection. There is no internet connection. “F**k, no internet at all” Ethan states. Turns out there are no connections at all between the two, except as stated in the script, yet the two end up taking off their outer clothing as the heavy bass that connotes fornication is at hand plays. They then touch as if filming an underwear commercial.
For the next two hours, the two are revealed improbably to be writers, app designers and people who grope in their underwear when a heavy bass line is heard at the end of a scene.
Sex with Strangers is “meh.” The title is meant to titillate but it is sex with strangers on the blandest, most disinterested and perfunctory level. The male character uses “f**k” in all its possible parts of speech so those sensitive to hearing f**k will be shocked, but the show is not about the Old Frisian onomatopoeic word that, from the depths of its ancient etymology, sprang from the sound two artistic souls create when enjoying coitus. As Dowton Abbey’s Dowager Countess might state, “vulgarity is no substitute for wit.” This 2014 play is trendy and popular, performed world-wide, and was greeted with applause from the 3/4’s full house on opening night at CapRep, but the only stars in the play are found in the asterisks.