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By Laura Eason

Stage West

Directed by Jim Covault
Stage Manager Michelle Foster
Set Design--Kevin Brown
Lighting Design--Kyle Harris
Costume Design--Ryan D. Schaap
Sound Design-- John Flores
Props and Set D├ęcor-- Lynn Lovett

Olivia: Dana Schultes
Ethan: Jake Buchanan

Reviewed Performance: 6/24/2017

Reviewed by Mildred Austin, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Stage West in Fort Worth brings to its boards the Regional Premier of Laura Eason's play, SEX WITH STRANGERS, which will run at the theatre through July 23. It is a smart production all around: smart script, smart actors, smart staging and smart settings for the unfolding of this modern day "two on a see saw". The result is that, as an audience member, you are made to feel very much a part of what is otherwise a very intimate, often tangled relationship between Olivia and Ethan who couple, and uncouple and recouple as their emotional and professional lives unfold.

This is a two person show, which places the responsibility for the progression of the action squarely on the two actors. And Dana Schultes as the conflicted and uptight Olivia and Jake Buchanan as the gung-ho Ethan are up to the task. Ms. Schultes begins appropriately quiet, stand-offish and reluctant to become involved with Ethan, played by Mr. Buchanan. The latter literally blows onto the stage full of energy and flirtatiousness and blunt charge-ahead confidence. Both actors have exquisite command of voice and face and move easily between the several juxtapositions their characters find themselves in during the two acts.

Recently retired Stage West Artistic Director and Co-Producer Jim Covault, directs this show. He expertly brings together all the elements in an engagingly produced and smartly staged performance during which the characters draw us into their lives. The physical theatre seems to produce some staging challenges as the window to the world of the actors is quite wide literally. This sometimes causes extreme stage left and right to be ignored and the action tends to bunch up stage center. Again, the very wide proscenium opening played into this.

Set designer Kevin Brown successfully creates the quaint setting for Act One and the contrasting icy beauty and perfection of Olivia's apartment in Act Two. Nothing is overlooked in the set either, thanks to Lynn Lovett who is responsible for props and set dressing. Every painting and knick- knack speaks volumes with voices of their own---think the door of the cottage which practically shouts 1950's. The set changes, done in dim light, were unfortunately necessitated by the script which plays much like a television show with multiple scenes requiring changes. This is certainly understandable as Ms. Eason has substantial television credits.

The music, provided by sound designer John Flores, reflects the growing energy between Ethan and Olivia as his side hustle gathers momentum and her legit career takes off.

Costuming is generally spot-on in highlighting character development and progression. However, Olivia's final outfit, though a beautiful peach color is too tight to the point of being unattractive which it shouldn't be.

This play offers up thought-provoking commentary on Ethan's upfront and sometimes in-your- face sexist attitudes that are frankly challenged by the woman with whom he has a physical, emotional, professional and financial involvement. And we are offered insight into Olivia's conflicted emotions and her search for professional confidence and independence. We are challenged to ask ourselves how much would we compromise our integrity to achieve financial and artistic success? Searching for those answers provides two hours well spent in the theatre.


Stage West
821 West Vickery
Fort Worth, TX 76104
817-STG-WEST (817-784-9378

Plays through July 23rd

Thursdays, 7:30
Fridays and Saturdays 8:00
Sundays 3:00

For information and tickets, go to