In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play)

Tuesday, September 27 th, 2016 at 00:09 am 
In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play)

In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play)

In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) – Theater Review

SYNOPSIS

What exactly were doctors thinking back in the 1880s at the dawn of the age of electricity, when they utilized vibrator therapies on their female patients in the name of medical treatment? And what did the women think was happening to them when doctors allayed their so-called ‘hysteria’ with a very personal newfangled machine? That’s what Sarah Ruhl wondered when she set out to write IN THE NEXT ROOM or the vibrator play. Hysteria was a real diagnosis, and a quite common one given to women in the Victorian age. Just as common was medical treatment with electrical stimulating machines, the vibrators of the day, to ease their condition!

JOY’S REVIEW

IN THE NEXT ROOM; THE VIBRATOR PLAY is a cute idea that basically looks at a prominent physician at a spa in upstate New York in 1888 when electricity had just been invented and he decides the way to cure hysteria is through electrical conductivity to a woman’s privates, thereby releasing the pressure of too much fluid in the womb. Now this sounds a bit smutty and a bit off until you realize that electricity is used for a lot of things, including rebooting the brain in severe depression. The problem about the play, to a certain extent, is two things. Number one is that it’s sort of smuttier than it has to be and the idea that we are so much smarter now. Well, I’m not sure we are that much smarter now, and the idea of laughing at other people’s way of dealing with a problem I think is somewhat patronizing and disingenuous, because I think 50 years from now, people are going to be laughing at how we treat problems. But the other problem is Laura Benanti, who is beautiful and in the right part is just mesmerizing, and certainly charismatic, she really holds the stage here. The problem is that everybody else is in a different play than she’s in. They’re all playing people who could have in fact been alive in 1888, and she’s playing somebody who is alive in 2008. She’s a valley girl. And I just can’t imagine women behaving in a way that — I mean okay, she’s supposed to be a free spirit, but using the vernacular she uses, using the giggling that she uses, I just can’t imagine women behaving that way then and no one else in the cast even approaches her level of modernity in terms of spirit, boldness, and vocabulary. This problem really throws things off. On the other hand, it’s an interesting idea and does make you think and it is entertaining, so I’ll give it three stars.
JOY METER