By Teresa Crasto
In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play is the perfect combination of humor, seriousness and awkwardness.
The play is set in the 1800s during the Victorian Era, a time known for its emphasis on propriety and restraint. Yet, it is such a description that sets the scene for the weighty juxtaposition between knowledge of the time period and the play’s depiction of the early use of vibrators as a treatment for hysteria.
Jasmine Roth ‘14 describes the play as “visually impressive.” The set was beautifully constructed with striking contrast between the neat, perfectly-organized living room and the “operating theater” in which Dr. Givings administers his vibration treatments.
Coming in, I expected the primary focus of the play to be the use of the vibrator as a treatment for hysteria, full of awkwardly crude humor and no happy ending in sight.
Similarly, before seeing the play, Robert Johnson ‘15 said that it was about “a woman who goes hysterical.” His description pretty much summed up what my initial impression of the play was. But after seeing it firsthand, I realized it signified something much more.
Instead, I found a production which used the vibration treatment as a tool to portray the complex social relationships between men and women during that time.
The actors present the characters perfectly, not falling into the typical stereotypes one would expect. As a member of audience said, “it takes a lot of delicacy” to portray the characters and situations depicted in the play.
Dr. Givings (Dave Masterson ‘14), whose character I expected to be a creepy, misogynistic villain, is shown to have a scientific detachment to his work, even when describing the machine’s ability to produce paroxysms (a.k.a. orgasms) in women.
The scenes between Mrs. Daldry and Mrs. Givings, portrayed by Maisy Bragg ‘12 and Robyn Belt ‘14 respectively, are among my favorites. The two women have awkward camaraderie, which is highlighted by the climatic ending of Act I (pun intended).
Each character brings something different to the mix, and the interactions between characters range from humorous to awkward and from tragic to heartwarming.
Both the actors and audience enjoyed the unique nature of the play. Ryan Semerad ‘13, who plays Leo Irving, said In the Next Room was a “good shift” from spring term’s production of Peter Pan, and that it was nice to try something different.
Emma Freter ‘13 said that she appreciates the “different flavor” of each of the Theater Department’s productions.
In the Next Room was memorable, not just for its controversial subject material, but primarily for the outstanding performance of the entire cast.