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In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play

a Comedy
by Sarah Ruhl

COMPANY : Synchronicity Performance Group [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Peachtree Playhouse
ID# 4794

SHOWING : September 25, 2015 - October 18, 2015



Welcome to 1887. Chester Arthur is in the White House. Women are wearing bustles and corsets, and men drive horse-drawn carriages. The invention of the light bulb and a handy new instrument to treat “hysteria” in women has Dr. Givings’ patients all aglow and his young wife very curious. A comedy about intimacy and equality in the vein of a British farce. Note: Contains adult themes.

Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and three 2010 Tony Awards, including best play.

Director Rachel May
Leo Tony Larkin
Dr. Givings Daniel May
Mrs. Daldry Wendy Melkonian
Elizabeth Danielle Mills
Mr. Daldry Doyle Reynolds
Annie Maria Sager
Mrs. Givings Bryn Striepe
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An Ecdysiast May Strip Striepe
by playgoer
Sunday, October 11, 2015
"In the Next Room" is a period piece taking place in 1887, with ironic foreshadowing of the effect electricity will have on the world. At its heart, it’s a story of repressed Victorian spouses longing to find connection and sexual release. That primitive electrical stimulation devices are the means of release is both the joke and the centerpiece of the action.

Carter Eastis’ set design (adapted from Michael Halad’s) provides an appropriate background for the action. Stage right is Dr. Givings’ medical treatment room; stage left is the parlor of the Givings’ home. Both halves are nicely furnished, and Elisabeth Cooper’s prop design and M.C. Parks’ "instrument" design are both impressive. Landi McAdams’ costumes (adapted from Jonida Beqo’s designs) set the period appropriately, and Katie McCreary’s lighting design and Rob Brooksher’s sound design enhance the action. The set is a tiny bit flimsy, with wall panels separated by blank space and walls that shudder when doors are closed. Still, it’s a good use of the space, with leafless branches downstage of the stage curtain that frame outdoor action, except for the nicely staged final scene.

Director Rachel May has created effective pacing and blocking of the action, even though the script does tend to slow down as the play is winding up. She hasn’t been able to elicit a consistent level of acting quality in the cast, however. Daniel May is excellent as the scientific-minded Dr. Givings, as is Tony Larkin as a British artist. Wendy Melkonian is stunningly perfect in her role as a frustrated housewife. Maria Sager is quite good as Annie, the doctor’s assistant, although she doesn’t appear to be over 33, as the script indicates.

On the other side of things, Doyle Reynolds is execrable as Mr. Daldry, all clipped, artificial speech, coupled with a total lack of virile masculinity. Danielle Mills is little better as nursemaid Elizabeth, showing little facial expression and giving her lines with a flat, generally listless delivery. Bryn Striepe is okay as the central character of Mrs. Givings, but she’s a bit sturdy for the role of a flighty, generally delicate woman. Instead of a Nora from "A Doll’s House," we get more of a Mrs. Antrobus from "The Skin of Our Teeth." More nuance is needed.

There’s a lot of undressing and dressing in the play, as patients disrobe for the doctor, then slip on their clothes when their session is done, not to mention Elizabeth nursing the Givings’ daughter as she poses. It’s all done in good taste, though, with little bare flesh exposed. There’s quite a bit of prurient action going on, but nothing that goes beyond the bounds of modern good taste for adult audiences. The title and subject matter are meant to titillate, and they do do a good job of attracting audiences, but Synchronicity’s production doesn’t deliver the goods that would make this play fully entertaining on its own merits. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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