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Saturday January 22nd

‘The vibrator play’ leaves audience satis?ed

PlayMakers Repertory Company production of In The Next Room.

Credit: Jon Gardiner
Buy Photos PlayMakers Repertory Company production of In The Next Room. Credit: Jon Gardiner

Heads up — this one’s a screamer.

An assortment of moans, groans and yelps — male and female, electrically and manually induced — is the chorus for PlayMakers Repertory Company’s production of “In the Next Room (or the vibrator play).”

‘In the Next Room’

Time: Tues. through Sat. at 7:30 p.m., Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m. until Oct. 9
Location: Paul Green Theatre


Verdict: 3.5 of 5 stars

The play, written by Sarah Ruhl, blends a Victorian setting and modern comedy in its story about the vibrator’s early use to “release excess fluid in the womb,” a cure for hysteria.

In capitalizing on the play’s rampant sexual humor, the production is successful.

But it leans a little too hard on the shock value, and the script’s deeper issues — like racial tensions, suppressed homosexuality and a mother’s failure to connect with her baby — take a back seat.

The play’s action never leaves the home of the vibrator’s keeper, Dr. Givings, whose operating theater and living room share a wall.

The show starts sluggishly. Its first act contains tedious moments where virtually nothing is happening on stage besides a woman removing layers of clothing.

Characters shuffle in and out of the house, between the living room and the “next room,” into and out of their clothes, from frustration to ecstasy. Watching the action feels like watching an assembly line in an orgasm factory.

In the second act, the show begins to accelerate toward its climax, which features full nudity and snowstorm coitus.

Despite trouble projecting her lines, Kelsey Didion embodies the flighty Mrs. Givings, a woman who can’t connect with her husband, can’t nurse her baby and can’t get off.

Her desperation becomes evident in her interactions with Katie Paxton’s Mrs. Daldry, a childlike waif who becomes addicted to her treatments and relentlessly finds excuses to return to the Givings’ house for another hit.

Didion and Paxton are a charming pair, giggling gleefully as they sneak into the “next room” and use the machine to do each other favors.

It is truly heartwarming to watch Paxton brandish the vibrator and thrust it between her friend’s legs — out of the goodness of her heart.

But the standout of the production is Annie, played by UNC drama professor Julie Fishell.

As Dr. Givings’ nurse, Fishell displays impressive range. Her performance determinedly pleasuring Mrs. Daldry is as delightful as her weeps for lost love are touching.

Matthew Greer is both adorable and pitiable in his role as Dr. Givings.

His earnest attempts to divorce physicality from emotions provide an ideological core for the production. He is trapped in a pattern of packaging and classifying pieces of his life, afraid to let them mix.

It is not until his sex-starved wife leads him into the garden and proceeds to mount him that he begins to break free from this mindset.

Though choppy at times, “In the Next Room” is well-executed. It is a play about liberation — not only in the female sense, but also from societal compartments.

The characters learn to get their hands dirty, and that aspect of the production, if anything, will keep people coming.

Contact the Arts Editor


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