In the Next Room, or the vibrator play: Vibrating with perfection—Theatre

In the Next Room, or the vibrator play opens Woolly Mammoth Theatre’s 2010-2011 season with a huge bang. A great script, acted to sheer perfection, complemented with fabulous costumes, The Vibrator Play is just a great night of theatre.

Written by Sarah Ruhl and directed by Aaron Posner, The Vibrator Play takes place in the late 19th century, when electricity was still wonderment for all. During this time, some doctors used Edison’s invention to treat female “hysterical disorders” with electrical stimulation to reach the point of paroxysm as a means of “helping” women achieve their former rosiness.

Such is the “hero” of The Vibrator Play, Dr. Givings (Eric Hissom) a true believer in all that electricity can do. He is married to the considerably younger Catherine (Katie deBuys) who is unable to nurse her baby. Dr. Givings and his nurse Annie (Sarah Marshall) begin treating the shy Sabrina Daldry (Kimberly Gilbert) whose husband (James Konicek) has brought her to Dr. Givings in the hopes of restoring her “glow.” It is the Daldrys who offer their housekeeper, Elizabeth (Jessica Frances Dukes), as a wet nurse for Mr. and Mrs. Givings. And finally, into this eclectic mix, comes Leo Irving (Cody Nickell), an artist who is experiencing “hysterical” issues of his own and comes to Dr. Givings for treatment.

The actresses assembled for this play are absolutely brilliant. Marshall says barely a word, but just the raising of an eyebrow evokes the right emotion. In a long list of performances this may be one of her best. Gilbert and Duke, also Woolly veterans (albeit still young), are fabulous. Gilbert’s scenes with Marshall and deBuys are great—comedic with deBuys and very heartfelt with Marshall. And finally there is deBuys. New to Woolly, she makes an unforgettable debut. She matches up perfectly with every actor with whom she interacts. One hopes she has a long career with Woolly.

The actors are not pikers. They, too, are great. Konicek is terrific as the clueless husband. Hissom gives a fabulous performance as the egotistical doctor/ husband who finally comes to appreciate how smart his wife is. And Nickell, as the artist who stirs the play’s plot, comes this close to taking his portrayal into caricature, but reins it in just enough to deliver a sensational performance.

Over the years, the Woolly Mammoth Theatre  has provided Washington with some unforgettable theatrical gifts. In the Next Room, or the vibrator play, is one of its best. It is not to be missed.

During your visit to the theatre, be sure and take in the collection of vibrators provided by the National Gallery of Art with the assistance of the Museum of Sex . On display are vibrators from as early as 1902 provided by Hamilton Beach.

In the Next Room, or the vibrator play runs through September 26

Woolly Mammoth Theatre, 641 D Street, NW, Washington, DC

 

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One Response to “In the Next Room, or the vibrator play: Vibrating with perfection—Theatre”

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