Tuesday November 21st 2017

“In The Next Room or the Vibrator Play”

Highly Recommended *****  Back in 2011, Victory Gardens presented Sarah Ruhl’s Pulitzer-Prize finalist ” In The Next Room, or the Vibrator Play” to thunderous applause. Six years have gone by and with Timeline Theatre Company’s new production of this play, Now onstage at Stage 773, I found, that like a good wine, it has  mellowed and is even better. Of course, some of that is a different director ( Mechelle Moe does a brilliant job) and of course the different cast of players. Let me first take you through the setting; the dawn of the discovery of electricity, and after the Civil Way, circa 1880 in a small town outside of New York.

The action takes place in the home of Dr. Givings (powerful performance by Anish Jethmalani) and his wife , Catherine ( solidly brought to life by Rochelle Therrien) and their recently born daughter. The doctor’s house is also where he works and this particular man of science has developed, with the age of electricity, a treatment for what was termed by many “female hysteria”. As the word spreads about this technique, which as it turns out is what might be called the earliest “vibrator”, more women come to him for “fixing”. In fact, as the story unfolds , even a male version of this technique is put in to play.

His wife  has her own problems. She feels lonely, despite having a new baby, because she is unable to offer the baby her breast milk. They bring in a wet-nurse to assist with this- Elizabeth ( deftly handled by Krystel McNeil). That does not solve her problem. There is little romance in her life, as the doctor is either treating patients or at his club or learning about new ideas for which Edison’s powerful ideas can be used . During the 2 hours and 25 minutes (there is an intermission) we do meet some patients that will amuse you and help to show the need for his great invention.

The first to arrive is Sabrina Daldry ( the adorable Melissa Canciller, who you need to watch very closely) who comes in with her husband, the somewhat “nerdy” Mr. Daldry (a comical performance by Joel Ewing). She has some problems, which are fixed very quickly. She is hysterical! (but in a good way)The other patient in the show is artist Leo Irving ( a fine character developed by Edgar Miguel Sanchez) who has lost his love of art as he lost his lady love in Paris. These characters intertwine with the doctor and his “special treatment” and the ladies, Mrs. Givings and Mrs. Daltry try a bit of experimenting themselves. I certainly don’t want to unwrap any of  Ruhl’s clever twists, but need to tell you that the person you really want to keep an eye on is the nurse, Annie (Dana Tretta is absolutely “killing” in this role-watch her eyes . You will be hypnotized!)

Those of you who know Timeline know that they have their own theater where “The Audience” has just been extended. So to make sure that the people who adore following them, see every production, they do rent other space for other productions. Good for the theaters, the actors and of course, the audiences. Stage 773 is a different layout than their home theater but Moe uses the stage very well. The set (Sarah JHP Watkins) is a well -appointed living room, doors leading to other areas and of course “the room next door” where half of the action (and the most remarkable) takes place. Brandon Wardell does the lighting, and pay heed to the fixtures. They are amazing and look very much like what one would think early lighting would look like. The costumes ( Alison Siple) are very period and well suited and the wigs (Katie Cordts) amazing. The sound and music composer , Andrew Hansen made sure that we never missed a word and the props were assembled under the leadership of Vivian Knouse. In productions such as these, there is a new title listing under staff- “intimacy designer” ( Rachel Flesher handled this task) and while I guess needed, I would love to have been that “fly on the wall” during rehearsals for the fun and frivolity.

This is definitely a play for “adults with open hearts and minds” (New York Times) and great fun for those who come in knowing that it is about the vibrator and the functions thereof. It is also about self-discovery and a coming to terms with our doctor and his wife as they come to the point where they can truly express themselves, to each other. The final scene will warm your heart and perhaps bring a tear to your eye. It did, mine! “In The Next Room” will continue at Stage 773 thru December 16th with performances as follows:

Wednesdays  7:30 p.m.

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Sundays  2 p.m.

EXCEPTIONS: NO performance on 11/23  (Turkey Day) but added performance on Friday 11/24 at 4 p.m. and on TUESDAY, 12/12 at 7:30 p.m.

Discussions and accessibility

visit www.timelinetheatre.com

Tickets  are $42.50 to $56.50 students save 35% off  U.S. Military personnel or veterans $25 (your family as well).

Call 773-327-5252 , stop by the box office at 1225 Belmont Avenue or again, visit http://www.timelinetheatre.com

parking is often tough in this area, but you can find spots. Valet parking is also available at $12 and of course, public transportation is always easy.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “In The Other Room or The Vibrator Play”

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