Anna Gunn’s ‘Sex with Strangers’ firing blanks

Now that Bryan Cranston has finished playing LBJ in the bio drama “All the Way” on Broadway, it seems fitting that his “Breaking Bad” co-star Anna Gunn should follow him by appearing Off-Broadway in  “Sex with Strangers,” a two-person comedic drama about contemporary writers which co-stars Billy Magnussen and is directed by David Schwimmer.

Gunn plays Olivia, a self-doubting 39-year-old college professor whose debut novel flopped years ago, currently taking it easy over spring break at her friend’s secluded cabin. An unexpected visitor arrives in the form of Ethan, a 24-year-old, brash and loose male who’s come to work on a screenplay.

After Ethan explains to Olivia how he turned his blog about random sex into a hot-selling book, he and Olivia have sex themselves. (The wi-fi is out, so what else is there to do?) Ethan spends the rest of act one gushing over Olivia’s writing and urging her to take another shot at achieving commercial success.

If act one is lightweight but fun and frisky, act two is full of over-the-top confrontations over Ethan’s sexual past and treatment of women and a major betrayal of Olivia’s trust. There’s also plenty of idle chatter about online publishing, closing a book deal, reader comments and working with an agent.

Magnussen, delivering what is essentially a variation on his Tony-nominated performance “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” (minus the show-stopping striptease), provides plenty of laughs at the start while Gunn looks on, reserved and measured but increasingly aroused. While they get to stretch their dramatic ranges as the play soldiers on, their confrontational scenes feel off-kilter.

Based on a first viewing, it’s hard to tell whether Laura Eason’s play is just a forgettable two-hander or if psychological interplay between the characters that would have made it more exciting has been lost in translation. If that’s the case, then the fault lies in Schwimmer’s direction.

If you go: “Sex with Strangers” plays at Second Stage through Aug. 24. 305 W. 43rd St., 2st.com.