In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play Is all About The O-Face
Playwright Sarah Ruhl knows how to construct plays. Focus tightly on a topic -- a crime, a scandal, some scurrilous bit of history. Then follow a Law & Order-style template of revelations and crises up to a semi-shocking finale.
Matt Mrozek Cast of In the Next Room...
She does exactly this for In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play, now running at Kitchen Dog Theater at The MAC. It's a thin, humorless play about a big topic: In the late 19th century, a medical trend arose around treating women's "hysteria" using newfangled electric G-spot stimulators.
Depression, eating disorders, frigidity and post-partum blues were all believed to be relieved by releasing "stress from the womb." The patients, meanwhile, had their first orgasms with the help of the buzzing wand. This was the Victorian era, after all, when marital relations for women meant closing their eyes and thinking of England until hubby was satisfied.
The cast of KDT's production plays it all straitlaced with grim resolve.
Martha Harms portrays the wife of a stuffy doctor, played by Max Hartman, who is doing the vibrator treatments in his home office (the "next room"). When she overhears the shrieks of orgasm from a patient played by Catherine DuBord, she gets curious about what's going on. The two women later sneak back into the treatment room when the doctor is away and take matters into their own hands.
That's when the play gets almost interesting, as they share secrets about their newfound sexual zing and how it's lacking in the bedroom.
There's a dull subplot about a closeted gay fellow (Austin Tindle) who's confused about his sexual identity, so we get to watch him getting up-the-bum treatments from the machine (with a different attachment, ahem). And in the latter part of the second act, the plot turns to the doctor, who, we discover, is even more sexually repressed than his daffy wife.
Kudos to the actors for their humorous O-faces in the doctor's office scenes. Those are the light moments in a long, dark, dull play that takes forever to reach its climax.
In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play continues through October 8 at Kitchen Dog Theater. Call 214-953-1055.