In the Next Room or the vibrator play

Sarah Ruhl’s script plays it straight for most of In the Next Room or the vibrator play, reserving her trademark theatricality for the satisfying ending. Indeed, it’s a play that accomplishes some of its best moments in the shared silences between two characters, especially a touching subplot between Sabrina Daldry (the fine Kimberly Gilbert) and clinic nurse Annie (an understated and hence very effective Sarah Marshall); the silences are fitting, since this is a story that unfolds in a Victorian America where sexual experience is not discussed, hardly even recognized for what it is. (And apparently no one saw the need for personal lubricant.)

There’s a lovely passage toward the end of Act 1 in which Catherine Givings (welcome newcomer Katie deBuys) looks forward to the coming century in which “everything in our lives will be electrified: On. Off. On. Off.” with clearly mixed feelings.

Daniel Conway’s set puts two half-circle rows of bleacher seats onstage to frame Dr. Givings’ parlor and consulting room as if it were an operating theater. Unfortunately, upstage action creates sightline problems for patrons sitting in the upper row. But I loved the hand-cranked entrance bell fitted to the Givings’ front door.

  • In the Next Room or the vibrator play by Sarah Ruhl, directed by Aaron Posner, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Washington
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