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Clayton Lin: Weighing In

In The Next Room, Or The Vibrator Play @ State Theatre Centre

Andrew Ryan

 Dr. Givings (Stuart Halusz), assisted ably by Annie (Allison Van Reeken) giving Mrs. Daldry (Jo Morris) medical treatment for ‘hysteria’. (Photo Credit: Phillip Gostelow)

Dr. Givings (Stuart Halusz), assisted ably by Annie (Allison Van Reeken) giving Mrs. Daldry (Jo Morris) medical treatment for ‘hysteria’. (Photo Credit: Phillip Gostelow)

Original script: Sarah Ruhl

Directed by: Jeffrey Jay Fowler

Starring: Stuart Halusz, Rebecca Davis, Tariro Mavondo, Jo Morris, Kingsley Judd, Tom Stokes, Allison Van Reeken

In The Next Room (Or The Vibrator Play) takes you back into the dawn of the 19th century, when electricity was the hot new thing on the block, and the alternating current and direct current made for a hot topic conversation- and then there’s Dr. Givings (Stuart Halusz) invention of the electric vibrator- that is sure to revolutionize the world of medicine!

With that historical context in mind for the purposes of window dressing and old-timey talk, In The Next Room is at heart about the desire for intimacy and connection. The story is largely centred around Mrs. Givings, the wife of Dr. Givings, as she craves for something more than just a lonely housewife who cannot even effectively nurse her newly born daughter, and hijinks ensue when she begins to get to know some of her husband’s patients (against her husband’s advice).

The staging of the play is central to the plot- the living room of the Givings family home and the operating theatre in which the doctor administers treatment- and the characters in the story are not aware of what happens in the other room- a recipe for much of the humour that goes on. But the best performer on stage must indeed go to the contraption that is the heart and soul of the play- the vibrator itself.

Of course the real laughs comes from the part where the audience looks back at the somewhat exaggerated depiction of sexual mores back then- the kind of a time where women would indeed faint at the sight of an uncovered ankle, or using a new dang-fangled deviced to treat hysteria in women by inducing an orgasm (historically administered as late as 1952)- compared to those of ours. Hence some of the scenes almost take on a voyeuristic air in which the audience laughs at the sight of Mrs. Daldry (Jo Morris) receiving treatment administered by an expressionless Dr. Givings, or when Mrs. Daldry and Mrs. Givings conspire together like latter-day teenagers to learn about what really goes on in the next room. But overall, the pacing is fine, and in every scene something is always happening to drive the story forward.

In The Next Room, or the Vibrator play is a very fun and raucous work of performance, that explores the desire for personal connection amidst a changing world, even though this aspect is overshadowed by the more erotic aspects of the performance.

In The Next Room, Or The Vibrator Play runs until the 4th November.