In the Next Room, or the vibrator play
By Sarah Ruhl
SEASON 1, 2018
by arrangement with Origin Theatrical, on behalf of Samuel French, Inc.
15 February – 3 March 2018
|WED 8:00PM||THU 8:00PM||FRI 8:00PM||SAT 2:15PM||SAT 8:00PM||SUN 2:15PM|
|15 FEB||16 FEB||17 FEB||18 FEB|
|21 FEB||22 FEB||23 FEB||24 FEB||24 FEB||25 FEB|
|28 FEB||1 MAR||2 MAR||3 MAR|
ABOUT THE PLAY
Set in the 1880s, just after the advent of electricity, and an era in which young ladies were raised to believe that sex was something to be endured, not enjoyed “In the Next Room” takes place in the adjoining parlour and consulting room of an upstanding physician, Dr Givings, who specializes in treating “hysteria” in women with a revolutionary new “machine.”
The animating joke behind In The Next Room, or the vibrator play, is that the heady sensations aroused in the characters are considered by all involved to be therapeutic rather than erotic. Application of that electrified wand in the doctor’s hand may inspire shuddering moans, guttural cries and exhortations to God, but the instrument is considered by patient and doctor alike to be no more naughty than a stethoscope. But the ideas underpinning the play, about the fundamental lack of sympathy between men and women of the period, and the dubious scientific theories that sometimes reinforced the subjugation of women are serious. They demonstrate how much control men had over women’s lives, bodies and thoughts, even their most intimate sensations.
It takes some time before Mrs Daldry and Mrs Givings, whose curiosity about her husband’s methods leads to a session of mutual experimentation conducted with embarrassed giggles, can admit that the sensations aroused by the doctor’s electrified implement are pleasurable rather than alarming. And when Mrs Givings’ wet nurse, Elizabeth, gently suggests that the feelings they describe are the same ones some women experience in bed with their husbands, they respond with stupefied silence, followed by dismissive laughter.