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In The Next Room, or, The Vibrator Play - Elf M. Sternberg
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elfs
In The Next Room, or, The Vibrator Play
It's odd that I find going to plays at Fifth Avenue tedious, but small community theater is fun and always interesting. Watching local actors who have lives outside the theater performing plays beyond the mainstream is always joyful.

Omaha, Raen and I went to see In The Next Room, or, The Vibrator Play, a fun little 90-minute piece in two acts about Victorian attitudes toward sex, pleasure, and the relationships between men and women, performed by the Burien Actor's Theater. Set in 1880, it's about Doctor Givings, a high-minded and scientific physician who is using this new and marvelous instrument, the vibrator, to relieve women of the hysteria-related congestion in their wombs by inducing "paroxysms," and it's about his wife Catherine, who sees something in his treatments that he doesn't: that the vibrator induces pleasure in women.

The men in the story are literally blind to physical pleasure in women. One of the patients, Mrs. Daldry, describes her husband as "considerate" because he is "efficient" and "not very long" in performing his marital duties. Catherine is going through two crises in the play: not only is her relationship with her husband "efficient" and "scientific" and so unfulfilling, but she cannot nurse her new baby effectively so has to hire a wetnurse. The one she finds is Elizabeth, a Black woman, and the intimacy between her baby and Elizabeth makes Catherine horribly jealous.

The play is very funny without being mean, an incredibly difficult line to toe, and yet playwright Susan Ruhl has pulled it off. The actors have to be incredibly comfortable with each other, especially given how many orgasms they have to portray on stage, although all of them are done under cover, so it's not porny in any real way. It's not about how men suck or how women are vicious; it's very much more about how culture trains us to not know how to love one another. Not as parents, friends, or lovers.

The BAT actors were very comfortable, and hilarious. Especially the two principles. The set was amazing for such low-budget production, and the sound system was clear and crisp. Congratulations to the BAT for putting together such an astute and artful production.

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