Drama majors Natasha Preston ’17 and Elgin Martin ’17 presented their senior thesis, Sex with Strangers, this past weekend. Written by Laura Eason and directed by Martin, this sensuous play featured Preston as the starring actress in the story of two very different writers who meet at an author’s retreat.
Preston and costar Tristan Biber ’17 gave an astounding performance, proving they had not only talent, but also amazing chemistry — a necessity in a story this sensual. The show was so effortless that one often forgot that they were watching a live performance.
Sex with Strangers involves only two performers, but the plot leaves nothing to be desired. The play centers on Biber’s character Ethan, an established blogger whose most successful stories recount his sexual exploits, and Olivia, Preston’s character, who is a struggling novelist with one published book that has seen little success.
After seducing Olivia, who is a decade older than he is, Ethan suggests Olivia self-publish her novel as an e-book though his new app. Olivia ultimately decides she’d prefer creative independence over the artificial success she fears from Ethan’s e-books.
“We’ve had a relationship with the play for so long, it was difficult to come into the process with fresh eyes,” Martin said on the challenges of putting on the play. He first saw Sex with Strangers the summer after his first year at Kenyon.
Preston and Martin have been discussing doing Sex with Strangers as their senior thesis since they were sophomores. “We’ve been best friends since our first year at Kenyon and we decided we wanted to do our senior thesis together almost immediately,” Preston said.
The plot of Sex with Strangers presents ideas like generational difference, internet culture versus genuine connection and the hope of changing one’s image. The play becomes much more than any story of love or lust — it instead becomes a story of trust and ambition. Ethan becomes power hungry and obsessed with changing his image, and their relationship becomes too dependent on each other’s success.
In this particular presentation of Sex with Strangers, one felt as though they were experiencing each moment with the characters. The actors performed without error, and still appeared passionate enough to evoke strong feelings from the audience members. More tension could be felt with each argument between Ethan and Olivia.
“This play is about Olivia taking back her power and finding her voice and I think that’s really resonant right now especially,” Martin said.
The play proved to be a unique, yet realistic experience due to both the senior directors and actors. Overall, Preston and Martin’s interpretation of this play made for an entertaining Friday night.