For a while in "Sex With Strangers," it seems that Chicago playwright Laura Eason is setting up an unusual and provocative relationship between a disappointed serious novelist (Anna Gunn, Walter's wife in "Breaking Bad") and a young hunk (the irrepressible Billy Magnussen) who writes best-selling Internet books about his casual liaisons. He shows up at a rural writers' retreat, slowly revealing how much he knows about her and her work. Major chemistry ensues.

But so does suspense, which dissipates until, in the second act, we get a lecture about online-versus-books and a cop-out ending. David Schwimmer, who has been directing at least as much as acting since "Friends" disbanded, allows his characters to get phonier as the stakes get bigger.


WHAT "Sex with Strangers"

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WHERE Second Stage Theatre, 305 W. 43rd St.

INFO $65-$89; 212-246-4422; 2st.com

BOTTOM LINE Sex more seductive than drama