Tuesday May 30th 2017

“In The Next Room or the vibrator play”

What used to be ta-bu in our lives is now appearing on our stages and our world has changed in many ways. Topics that were kept behind closed doors are now out in the open. Victory Gardens Theater opens its 2011-2012 season with an explosive comedy,”In The Next Room or the vibrator play”, Sarah Ruhl’s look at the coming of age for an electrical product that was developed to calm hysterical women by the medical profession. This is two plus hours of sheer madness and hysterical comedy directed by Sandy Shinner on their stage. The time is the late 1880’s, somewhere on the East Coast. Electricity was something new and our hero ( if one can call him this), Dr. Givings (  sharp portrayal of the victorian gentleman by Mark L. Montgomery) has taken massage to a new level. With electricity available, he has a new machine that will help “hysterical” women relives their tensions and allow their juices to flow renewed. He is a happily married man with a baby. His wife Catherine ( once again, Kate Fry shows her stuff and her great comic timing- she is adorable and delicious) , a healthy young woman is not allowed to mingle with his patients or even know what his specialty is. And yet, she sees his patients enter his “next room” depressed and almost dead, and come out full of life. She is bored with her days and cannot even breastfeed her daughter as she is somewhat dry and so, they hire a wet nurse to assist in this matter. Elizabeth ( Tamberla Perry) an employee of a patient, Sabrina Daldry ( the very funny Polly Noonan) becomes a major part of her own hysteria, as with her spending the time with the baby and her husband going to his club after handling patients leaves little for her to do.

Catherine finds herself becoming needy and wants to know what goes on in “the enxt room” and when she does, her eyes are opened to a whole new life. This is not a story that is about a sexual toy ( as a vibrator is known by many) but of love itself and relationships; of indiduals and their needs; of women’s independence ( at a time when it would have been unthinkable) and of course intimacy. Just think of what our world might have been without the discovery of electricity!

Shinner has a delightful cast in this fast moving comedy on a remarkable set ( Jack Magaw) that fills this small stage with a fantastik living room and a riser that is “the next room” ( where the doctor does his stuff). The Victorian costumes (Jacqueline Firkins) are magnificent and very detailed and the lighting (Joseph Appelt) sheer perfection. The sound design and music ( Andre Pluess ) were very fitting and even with a sound problem on opening night, the actors were able to carry their voices well in the beautiful, intimate Biograph Theater. Grant Sabin’s props are an important part of making this show work and the cast of players appeared to be having as much fun doing Ruhl’s script as we had watching them perform. Lawrence Grimm as Mr. Daldry, Joel Gross as the artists Leo Irving who also needs the doctors device ( but in a different way), the delightful Patricia Kane as the doctors nurse, Annie round out the cast. While there are characters of greater importance , as in most plays, this is truly an ensemble piece, as they all play off each other, and do so to perfection. Let Ms. Ruhl take you back to the Victorian Age in a slightly different way than you have ever experienced. You too, will leave the theater with a smiling face ( and perhaps your cheeks will be rosy as well).

“In The Next Room” will continue at Victory Gardens Theater located at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue through October 9th with performances as follows:

Tuesday-Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m.,Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m.

NO PERFORMANCE on the evening of Wednesday,September 28th BUT there will be a matinee on that date at  2 p.m.

Tickets range from $20-$50 and are available at the box office, by phone at 773-871-3000 or email  tickets@victorygardens.org or visit www.victorygardens.org

Discounts for students $15 ( I suggest he material, although funny is for mature audiences) ,seniors and don’t forget Access 20 for $20 and Rush.

Victory Gardens wants theater to be seen by all who want to see live theater and I applaud them for making it available as they do.

Special event- on Saturday, September 24th, between the shows, Dr. Lauren Streicher will hold a lively discussion along with Rachel Maines , author of “The technology of Orgasm; “Hysteria,”Vibrators and Women’s sexual satisfaction ( an inspiration for this play) to learn more about this important topic. Admission is free and meal boxes will be available to purchase- reservations are required so call 773-871-3000 for your place.

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