Nineteenth century inhibitions and 21st century mores come to a head in “In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play” Nov. 15-19 at St. Cloud State University.
A period comedy set in the 19th century, the play tells the story of Dr. Givings, portrayed by Andrew Kinzer, who believes he has found the cure for hysteria with his new invention — the vibrator.
Adjacent to the doctor’s library, his wife, portrayed by Amber Samson, tries to tend to her newborn daughter with the help of a midwife while wondering what is going on in the next room. The play premiered at Berkley Rep and marked writer Sarah Ruhl’s Broadway debut when it opened at the Lyceum Theatre in 2009.
The play runs 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15-18 and 2 p.m. Nov. 19 on the Performing Arts Center’s Center Stage. The play has scenes that are not appropriate for children.
The play is really about intimacy and all the ways there are to be intimate with someone that has nothing to do with sex. It’s a play with post-modern ideas set in the midst of 19th century inhibitions about sex. It also deals with another 21st century myth — that technology can solve all of our problems, said Director Brenda Wentworth.
“We in the 21st century may not have the same inhibitions, but we’re still inhibited about intimacy because so many people think about it only as sex,” she said. “So many people don’t recognize intimate relationships that aren’t built on sex.”
The play features action and dialogue taking place in two rooms on stage simultaneously, so it is a complicated performance for the show’s seven actors.
“Two things are going on at once all the time,” Wentworth said. “One room people are dressing and undressing for the doctor to use the vibrator on them, and in the other room there are greetings and conversations. It’s like a living room where things happen. The focus goes back and forth, back and forth.”
The actors have been studying techniques for giving and taking the audience’s attention using movement and sound while also portraying lines where the character is saying a line with multiple meanings.
“It’s a lighter look at serious issues, and we’re able to laugh at ourselves by seeing how the kind of ideas that these people have are ridiculous,” Wentworth said. “There’s a lot of dressing and undressing of period garments on stage that you see and clothing becomes kind of a symbol of what you have to let go of.”
Tickets are $10 for the general public, $7 for students and seniors or free with a St. Cloud State University ID.
In the Next Room
Toni “Eli” Winkels