Same Day Theatre’s In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play, running at The Gladstone through June 1, is gaining a lot of buzz and hype from its title and risque subject matter. Set in a Victorian-era town, at the dawn of the age electricity, the show is about the invention of the vibrator as a treatment of hysteria and about the people receiving the treatment.
Should you see it?
In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play is about Dr. Givings and his wife, Catherine. The good doctor buries himself in work and Victorian-era values, thinking everything is copacetic with his marriage. Catherine, however, feels differently and yearns for more from it all, especially upon being intrigued by the change, almost an awakening, that her husband’s treatment is bringing to his patients. Dr. Givings, by the way, services his patients with a newly invented, electrically powered vibrator. In exactly the way you’d expect.
Initially, I wasn’t sure how I felt about In the Next Room. The content of the play, which has caused some controversy locally, wasn’t a problem. I think I’ve gone on record with being a fan of braver, tougher, and more ‘taboo’ things being explored on stage.
What it was was that the first half to two thirds of the play were pretty light on substance with characters who generally felt aimless and instead built itself on some laughs, most of them arising from the awkwardness of the sexual situations we see happening on stage. At one point in the second act, I found myself wondering what the story actually was here. But then, and it felt very sudden, everybody had a story, or at least an ending to one, leading to more love triangles than a soap opera and a bunch of conclusions that weren’t terribly uplifting or satisfying. One, Elizabeth the wet nurse’s monologue, didn’t feel at all at home in this play.
Where In the Next Room was most interesting was when it was evaluating the contrast between different values — on one hand, Victorian-era treatment of marriage largely as a business transaction (with husbands and wives even keeping different rooms), on the other, marriage built on love and embracing sexual passion — using the vibrator as a catalyst for that.
And that is what the vibrator is in the play, if you’re wondering, a plot device and catalyst. In the Next Room is not “about” the treatment so don’t expect any scientific or medical exploration into hysteria, the vibrator, or how one became used as treatment for the other. But be aware it does contain frank depictions of sexuality.
That exploration of these contrasting values and a move from one to the other serviced the story just enough for it to end in a satisfying way despite the threads that weren’t doing it for me.
The other thing that serviced In the Next Room well was its cast. The character portrayals were all strong and it’s hard not to give mention to the handling of the sexual scenarios in the play that required the actors to be especially open and vulnerable and that worked well on their strength.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to hear what you thought. Was the vibrator nothing but a cheap gimmick for cheap laughs and promo? Did the story hit all the right buttons for you? Tell me what you think in the comments below.
In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play, runs at The Gladstone through June 1. Check out our preview article, which includes photo and video, for all the details on how to get tickets.