Atlanta Art Reviews by Susan K Asher
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‘In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play’

2011 November 10

Tiffany Morgan and Kate Donadio; Photo: Synchronicity Theatre

Prudes and prigs beware. “In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)” may make you blush.

In this production, Synchronicity Theatre certainly lives up to its moniker “smart, gutsy, bold, theatre.”

To all those people who think theater is boring or for stuffed shirts, watch this.

The time is the Victorian era and the location is upstate New York. Electricity is rare in any home, and the Givings are thrilled they have a new electric lamp. But there is one more electrical device, stolen away in the doctor’s office where he sees patients, which is giving quite a few thrills: an electric vibrator.

Inside the home of Dr. and Mrs. Givings, just off the living room in the next room, patients diagnosed with “hysteria” are treated with the newest medical device, the electric vibrator.  Long before Stepford wives, married women in the Victorian age were brought to see a doctor by their husbands for displaying either too little or too much emotion for being hysterical. Forbidden to walk outside alone without a man, married women were to stay home all day while their husbands worked or socialized at a private club.

Mrs. Givings (Kate Donadio), who has no idea what is going on in the next room, is subject to overhearing the shrieks, sighs and moans through the living room door.  She sneaks in one day while her husband is out and examines the vibrator, which looks similar to a small blow drier with a tip that whirls around, kind of like the nose of a small plane missing its propeller. When patient Mrs. Sabrina Daldry (Tiffany Morgan) arrives while the doctor is away, Mrs. Givings beseeches her to show her how the vibrator is used.  The vibrator experience marks the first time either women have felt such sensations.

The doctor’s first male patient to be treated with the vibrator, Leo Irving (Tony Larkin), a romantic artist arrives to seek treatment for depression to overcome heartache. He becomes enamored with the Givings’s black nursemaid, Elizabeth (Xiomara Yanique), who is the only one of the ladies to understand what all the moaning and sighing could mean. In high society, women were constantly under social constrains, even during sex between a married couple.

This  is a well-acted show and features a standout performance by Kate Donadio, who channels  Katherine Hepburn’s flirtatious ways in a cheeky scene with Mr. Daldry (Doyle Reynolds).

“In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play” by Sarah Ruhl and directed by Rachel May, produced by Synchronicity Theatre, runs through Nov. 19 at Horizon Theatre. Tickets are available at Synchronicity Theatre.

Cast:

Dr. Givings-Brian Kurlander

Annie-Daryl Lisa Fazio

 

 

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