“Intimate and intelligent” is how Laura Eason’s Sex with Strangers has been described. And, yes, it’s about sex. But according to actors Luigi Sottile and Holly Twyford, that only scratches the surface.
Jeffrey Walker sat down with the two co-stars for their perspective.
What was your first reaction to this play?
Luigi: When I first read it about a year ago, I thought it was very smart. It is structured very, very well, and the characters are so rich and complex. It really made me fall in love with the character of Ethan.
Holly: I first read this play a couple of drafts ago, so it was a little different at that time. But even then, the basic story is easy to get hooked on. I liked it when I read it, but what’s been really fun in rehearsal is that it has even more layers than I first thought. I already liked both characters and found them both really intriguing. It’s also been great to rehearse it and work with Luigi and discover all of these other aspects to it.
Sum up the play for us.
Holly: In the last analysis, it’s really a love story.
And without giving away too much, can you give us a brief description of your characters?
Luigi: Ethan is a young man, about age 28, who is a celebrity from a pair of book he put out a few years before the actual play takes place. His celebrity began on a bet, and he started blogging about having sex with a stranger every week of the year. That blew up and people wanted him to write books. We see his journey is balancing those two lives, becoming a serious artist while also trying to pull himself slowly out of what made him a celebrity in the first place. There is this duality of balancing two different lives.
Holly: Olivia is a writer who is going through a hard time, not having the success that she had hoped for. In a way she’s kind of waiting for someone like Ethan to come along and wake her up a little bit.
Is this the most intimate play you have experienced or most intimate acting partnership you have experienced in a show?
Luigi: It is one of the most intimate, yes.
Holly: Yes, it’s up there.
As you rehearsed the play, have there been huge moments of discovery regarding the characters unlocking the play?
Holly: I don’t think I can count the “aha” moments. They continue to happen.
Luigi: Yes, they happen every day, even while we were in tech rehearsals and the previews.
Holly: They come from everywhere. Our director, Aaron Posner, will say something that clicks in a whole different way. Sometimes Luigi will do something and I’ll respond to it in a way I never thought of before, and well it should because that’s what makes it fun.
What do you think this play says about sex, seduction, and intimacy in the digital age?
Luigi: Sex and intimacy in this age is very interesting because you don’t necessarily have to do it in person.
Holly: What I think is ironic is the more things change the more they stay the same. The more we think about intimacy the digital age in some ways it makes us want to go back to actual human connection. I think Ethan and Olivia are trying to find a balance with that and trying to get back to that human connection in their own way.
And there is nothing more visceral than two actors sharing a relationship on a stage without other people getting in the way.
Holly: Hopefully that’s why people go to see theater because of that connection. And people who’ve never seen theatre before who come to the experience will see that it’s like they’re watching real life up on stage and I think that has quite an impact. The play takes these characters moment to moment through their scenes and it plays out in real time so you really are seeing this whole relationship play out.
Can you talk about the combination of sexiness and intelligence in this play?
Luigi: It kind of makes for the perfect relationship, doesn’t it?
Holly: I think one of the aspects that attract Olivia and Ethan to each other is their intelligence . And I love the idea that intelligence is really sexy. Laura [Eason] has somehow married all of that perfectly. Not to reveal too much, but when the initial seduction of a character has to do with quoting a book – that’s pretty awesome right there.
SEX WITH STRANGERS
Closes December 7, 2014
4200 Campbell Avenue
2 hours, 15 minutes with 1 intermission
Tickets: $39 – $105
Tuesdays thru Sundays
Luigi: Hopefully, the intimacy; hopefully it will turn them on a little bit so when they leave, they hop in the bed, right?
Holly: Or read a book.
Luigi: Or do both.
Holly: Yes, read a book in bed. I mean there’s a lot of irony with our title and it’s also right to the point. It’ll be interesting to see what they think.
One last thing: What did your friends and family think when you told them you were acting in a play called Sex with Strangers?
Holly: It took me a long time to tell my daughter what the title of this play was. I was trying to be quiet about it and she overhead me say the title to someone.
Luigi: Everybody kept thinking that I had given up everything and had turned to porn.