Noises Off Stage and Beyond: Buzz from Sex With Strangers Star Anna Gunn, Julia Stiles and Tony Yazbeck

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21 Aug 2014

Anna Gunn and Billy Magnussen
Anna Gunn and Billy Magnussen
Photo by Joan Marcus

Playbill.com correspondent Harry Haun provides the latest insight into the buzz Off-Broadway and beyond.

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STRANGERS ON A ROLL: With the Emmy Awards less than a week away, is it any wonder that the most binge-watched series around are "House of Cards" and "Breaking Bad"? A key player in each will be going back for seconds, and you'll find each at Second Stage through Aug. 31 in Sex With Strangers. Laura Eason, who wrote the opus (an old-fashioned romantic comedy in the up-to-date guise of a sex comedy), is story editor and chief shuffler of "House of Cards," which earned even more nominations its second season around. Anna Gunn, who is taking her last shot at the Supporting Actress Emmy she won last year as Bryan Cranston's profoundly uninformed wife on "Breaking Bad," constitutes half the cast of Sex With Strangers.

She's partnered, in the most conspicuous sense of the word, with Billy Magnussen, who plays a sex-and-blog memorist who ups the readership of an old-school love-story novelist. "There's nothing like doing live theatre for me — it's what I've always dreamed of and where I started," said Gunn. Cranston, who copped the Tony in June for All The Way, must have wired that the water's fine. A sold-out run certainly encourages a girl, and she promises to be back. Magnussen's fellow Tony nominees for Vanya and Sonia and Masha and SpikeDavid Hyde Pierce and Kristine Nielsen — formed an opening-night cheering section. "My baby's grown up," Nielsen cooed blissfully.



A friend in deed, David Schwimmer, who acted in Eason's first-ever play, directed this one. During the past 28 years, they've co-starred and/or directed each other at Chicago's Lookinglass Theatre. "The first thing I tried to look for is the truth for each character," he explained, "and then, as we go, it's up to me to find moments that we bring out more of the comedy as well as the characters." This is Eason's third Off-Broadway offering, and she has two other play commissions on the griddle, "but a lot of time is taken up with TV writing. 'House of Cards' has been very consuming."

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