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In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play

Mar 23, 2012 - Apr 1, 2012

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In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play

By Sarah Ruhl

IOWA PREMIERE

Pulitzer Prize for Drama – Finalist
Tony Award Nominee – Best Play

Feel the buzz! In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play is a comedy about marriage, intimacy, and electricity. Set in the 1880s at the dawn of the age of electricity and based on the bizarre historical fact that doctors used vibrators to treat “hysterical” women (and some men), the play centers on a doctor and his wife and how his new therapy affects their entire household. On a larger scale, it serves as an insightful, provocative commentary on the role of women in a changing world.

“Sweet and surprisingly funny.” The Des Moines Register

“This cast is solid and gifted, working together on intuitive levels…. a masterful production, and everyone wise enough to flip on their cultural consumerism switch will be thrilled with the buzz this show delivers.” – John Busbee, The Culture Buzz

“A play that’s smart, delicate and very, very funny.” The New York Post

“The playwright mines her subject for suitably bawdy humor without resorting to vulgarity. But what really gives the work its distinction is its sensitive exploration of the physical and emotional repression suffered by the women of the era, which has yet to disappear.” The Hollywood Reporter

CAST
Dr. Givings: Shawn Wilson
Mrs. Givings: Angela Vogel
Annie: Rachael Rhoades
Mrs. Daldry: Kellie Kramer
Mr. Daldry: Micheal Davenport
Elizabeth: Anita Holland
Leo Irving: Josh Visnapuu

PRODUCTION TEAM
Director: Todd Buchacker
Stage Manager: Chantel Karns
Assistant Stage Manager: Kyle Bochart
Production Stage Manager: Rachael Rhoades
Scenic Designer/Lighting Designer: Jay Jagim
Costume Designer: Kelly Schaefer
Sound Designer: Josh Jepson
Props Designer: Joy Kripal
Hair/Wig/Make-up Designer: Cindy Hummel
Dramaturge: Kimberly Fitch
Talk-back Presenter: Planned Parenthood of the Heartland

REVIEWS
Theater review: ‘In the Next Room,’ at StageWest
Michael Morain, the Des Moines Register 03-26-2012

Ever since StageWest announced its plans to produce “In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play,” the company has heard just about every joke in the book. The producing artistic director, Ron Lambert, said as much Friday to the sold-out crowd at the Civic Center’s Stoner Theater.
“We might as well get this joke out there,” he said. “This show is creating quite a buzz.”
And it should, but not for the reasons you’d think. The Iowa premiere of the 2009 sex comedy by MacArthur “genius” Sarah Ruhl is strangely sweet and surprisingly funny not because it titters with TMI, or “too much information” in the current lingo, but because its Victorian characters struggle with so little.
Directed by Todd Buchacker, the story takes place in the 1880s parlor and consulting room of a gentle physician (Shawn Wilson, steady as a St. Bernard) and his excitable wife (StageWest newcomer Angela Vogel, a hilarious terrier), where the good doctor harnesses the magic of electricity to treat women diagnosed with “hysteria.” With the help of his steady nurse (Rachael Rhoades), he uses a vibrating wand to trigger in his patients a “paroxysm” that relieves “congestion” in the womb.
And wouldn’t you know it? After a few minutes of treatment, they feel much better.
It’s important to point out that everyone involved considers the procedure therapeutic rather than erotic. The gizmo is “no more naughty than a stethoscope,” as a New York Times critic put it awhile back.
But, whoo boy, it gets results. When a concerned husband (Micheal Davenport) brings in his wife (the luminous Kellie Kramer) for treatment, she responds with the same sorts of sounds Meg Ryan let forth at the restaurant in “When Harry Met Sally.” Her delighted cries spark the curiosity of the doctor’s wife, who overhears them in the parlor and commits herself to figuring out what exactly goes on behind that door to her husband’s office. (Set designer Jay Jagim’s ornately detailed set relies on an invisible wall.)
What follows, in the slightly overcomplicated story that also involves a dignified wet nurse (Anita Holland) and one of the doctor’s rare male patients (Josh Visnapuu), is an entertaining look at a time when the idea of sexual pleasure must have seemed as strange as life on the moon. Watching the patients furtively compare notes about their treatments is like watching a round of Taboo — until you realize they’re not simply avoiding certain words. They don’t even know them.
These days, when Google can teach you everything (and more than) you’d ever need to know, the women’s predicament seems silly, even a little sad. But as the doctor and his wife gently discover more about themselves — and their, um, capabilities — the story suggests that maybe we’re the ones who are missing out.
More than a century after Thomas Edison’s breakthrough, there’s still something to be said for being left in the dark.

“Electrically charged show explores fascinating social morays from another era”
Theatrical review by John Busbee, the Culture Buzz 03-26-2012

StageWest Theatre Company continues its irresistible presentation of debut stage work in this market, undoubtedly drawing theatre fans from across the state and beyond. “In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play” is another reason StageWest has achieved its success. This play, by shining star playwright Sara Ruhl (“Dead Man’s Cell Phone,” earlier produced by StageWest, and her Pulitzer Prize nominated “The Clean House”), sweeps its audience to another era, giving all much food for thought. And, thought-provoking stage productions have become a hallmark of StageWest.
Ruhl’s play is a comedy set during Victorian times about marriage, intimacy, and electricity. Set in the 1880s at the dawn of the age of electricity and based on the bizarre historical fact that doctors used vibrators to treat ‘hysterical’ women (and some men), the play centers on a doctor and his wife and how his new therapy affects their entire household. The story intertwines the lives of the doctor’s patients – Mrs. Daldry and Leo Irving, and a newly hired wet nurse, Elizabeth. Add the oddly out-of-touch husband of Mr. Daldry, and the efficient doctor’s assistant, Annie, and the formula for action from outlandish to tender is set. Ruhl’s brilliance infuses this script with rich layers of humor, pathos and human shortcomings, and StageWest’s production team extracts the most from this play.
While earlier productions – we’ll call this the “formative years” – seemed intimidated by the challenging confines of StageWest’s home, the Stoner Theatre at the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines, this organization now has a group of designers who embrace this space’s challenges, and deliver wonderfully adaptive scenic designs. Jay Michael Jagim, a well established star of scenic and lighting design in Central Iowa, allows his evocative design and concept to flow to the very feet of audience members, drawing patrons immediately into the 1880s, during the dawn of electricity. He captures the look and feeling of that era, wonderfully complemented by the exquisitely detailed costuming and hair/wig/makeup design work of Kelly Marie Schaefer and the team of Joy Kripal and Susan Sheriff, respectively.
Experienced director Todd Buchacker applies his talents in finding the best ingredients for his ensemble recipe – this cast is solid and gifted, working together on intuitive levels. In the pivotal role as Mrs. Givings, Angela Vogel owns the stage, sweeping from giddy delight with the world to depths of insecurity as a new mother. Countering with a polished, professional sheen is Shawn Wilson, as Dr. Givings. In explaining his male patient, Wilson deadpans, “Hysteria is very rare for a man, but, then again, he is an artist” – this brings the house down. His disassociation with his intimate work elicits some of the best, spontaneous laughter. As his efficient assistant, Rachael Rhoades adds a sublime element. Portraying such opposite personalities, Kellie Kramer and Michael Davenport play the Daldrys. Kramer’s range and delivery are wonderful to watch, and she captivates with her full-commitment performance. Davenport’s cluelessness is spot-on hilarious. Anita Holland brings a warm anchor to her wide-ranging counterparts, adding sensibility and a very appealing honesty to her role. As the brash artist, Leo Irving, Josh Vishnapu carries the outrageous passions of his creative fire to the limits. His initial treatment scene is tear-inducing hilarious.
The resultant power of this show combines Ruhl’s brilliant script, with a gifted ensemble providing an on-going ebb and flow as the story propels us to its gratifying conclusion. Buchacker’s gift for casting and pacing made this 2-1/2 hour plus production quickly slip by. Regular patrons to StageWest have long appreciated many of the extras in production value folded into each production. For “The Vibrator Play,” those finesse points include an original composition, “The Tesla Waltz,” penned by the multi-talented Kimberly Fitch, who also provided insightful dramaturge work, and several period working lights and lamps on stage highlighting a plethora of antique furnishings. This is a masterful production, and everyone wise enough to flip on their cultural consumerism switch will be thrilled with the buzz this show delivers.

Details

Start:
Mar 23, 2012
End:
Apr 1, 2012
Event Category:

Venue

StageWest Theatre
900 Mulberry St., Suite 205
Des Moines, IA 50309 United States
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Phone:
515.309.0251