The Vibrator Play

This is the last weekend of Southern Rep‘s production of Sarah Ruhl‘s In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play. The premise of the play is brilliant. It is Victorian-era America, Thomas Edison’s electrical experiments are breeding all sorts of inventions, like the vibrator–a simple device that doctor’s use to treat women suffering from “hysteria” by producing “paroxysms” that supposedly relieve some if the pressure in their uteruses. Dr. Givings has an office within his home where troubled women, like the sensitive Mrs. Daldry, come and have an innocent procedure that returns them relaxed and refreshed to their perplexed husbands.

The play’s titillating premise makes it easy to sell, but it is a lot more than a period-piece sex comedy. In the Next Room is really a meditation on how the Enlightenment affected women and the female body. The central character is the doctor’s wife, Mrs. Givings, who has been told that her milk is inadequate for feeding her newborn daughter. The family hires a wet nurse–an African-American woman named Elizabeth who has recently lost her infant son–to nourish the baby. Mrs. Givings is a young, naive, charming, emergetic–reminiscent of many a Victorian heroine–but is trapped within her beautiful home, not allowed to try to breast feed, therefore watching her baby bond with another woman, and not neurotic enough to warrant a session with her husband’s vibrating machine. Mr. Givings gives her chaste pats on the head when she expresses her unhappiness.

There are other themes that populate the world of In the Next Room, society is crossing over from being lit by fire to lit by electricity, and the characters express ambivalence about the impending change in the world. Some of these meditations are some of the most beautiful moments in the play.

This is the final weekend! Go see it. Tonight and Saturday at 8pm. Sunday at 3pm.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under theater

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s