In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play

In Sarah Ruhl's smart and pointed satire In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play, it's not just middle-class Victorian women who are sexually clueless: it's their men as well. The time is the 1880s, and man of science Dr. Givings (Michael Oosterom) is using a primitive electronic vibrator to treat "hysterical" female patients, who depart reinvigorated and refreshed while his own unhappy wife, Catherine (Joanna Strapp), eavesdrops enviously in the adjoining room. Eventually Catherine summons the courage to surreptitiously invade her husband's office and discover for herself the pleasurable side effects of this pioneering modality. Directed by August Viverito, the play successfully extends well beyond burlesque, sporting shades of Ibsen while focusing on the struggles between the sexes, along with the loneliness, boredom and frustration of traditionally obedient women's lives. At first this production's opening-night presentation seemed stagey and less than ideally crisp, but it gathered steam as the performers grew limber and confident and immersed themselves in the story. Some of the most hilarious moments arise around Yael Berkovich's portrayal of Mrs. Daldry, a formerly weepy neurotic whose vocal responses to the doctor's treatment soar to operatic realms. By contrast, the play's most moving highlights are embodied in Candace Nicholas-Lippman's fine rendering of Elizabeth, the African-American wet nurse hired to breastfeed Catherine's baby when Catherine's own milk stops flowing. An honest working woman mourning the death of her own infant, she hasn't the luxury of the antics of the spoiled upper classes. It is she who enlightens the other ladies about the true nature of the sensations they are experiencing for the first time.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Aug. 24. Continues through Sept. 28, 2013

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Secret Rose Theater

11246 Magnolia Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601

877-620-7673

www.secretrose.com


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