In the Next Room (or, the vibrator play) 

"Hysteria" gets an electrifying treatment

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The Gilded Age: The Civil War was over and Thomas Edison was ushering in a new age of innovation and electrification as the late 19th-century Progressive Era championed efficiency, modernism and scientific pragmatism. Nothing could have been as pragmatic as a frank, medical devotion to treatments for “hysteria”—a mostly feminine malady characterized by unmanageable emotional distress (as might be brought on by being constantly surrounded by patronizing, 19th-century dickheads).

In In the Next Room (or, the vibrator play), Dr. Givings (Joe Crnich) has innovated a technique of treating hysteria by producing “paroxysms” in his clients via use of genital stimulation. And, as it turns out, his technique proves effective, not only with depressed Mrs. Daldry (Holly Fowers)—whose condition, following a few orgasms, improves considerably—but also with stalled artist Leonard Irving (Jonathan Scott McBride)—who, after a few encounters with the invasive, foot-powered “Chattanooga model,” rediscovers his creative muse.

Directed by powerhouse Fran Pruyn, Sarah Ruhl’s play is a brilliant success, rounding out a strong Pygmalion season. The vibrator itself is a formidable implement. Steampunk aficionados will appreciate Cory Thorell’s well-researched design, a 19th-century metallic-filigree sphere sprouting a bulbous contact point, set atop a corded, plug-in industrial wand. Upon activation, internal LEDs light up to represent a dangerous-looking Edison-era electrical arc—something no 21st-century woman would want anywhere near her delicate regions—while the audience is treated to a weighty humming sound.

Special mention must be made of sound designer Mikal Troy Klee’s performance. He’s unseen onstage, but his sound cues are not only absolutely time-precise, but pitch-perfect enough that The Vibrator becomes not just a prop, but actually an eighth cast member.

In the Next Room (or, the vibrator play)
Rose Wagner Center
138 W. Broadway
801-355-2787
Through May 19
$20
PygmalionProductions.org, ArtTix.org

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