What exactly were doctors thinking in the 1880s at the dawn of the age of electricity, when they utilized vibrator therapies on their female patients in the name of medical treatment? What did these patients think was happening to them when doctors dispelled their so-called "hysteria" with a very personal innovative machine? That's what award-winning playwright Sarah Ruhl wondered when she set out to write In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play - a brave Tony-nominated show that finds a home on the Trustus Main Stage this Spring. Under the direction of guest director Ellen Douglas Schlaefer, the show opens Friday, May 4th at 8:00pm, and runs through May 26th, 2012.
Check out a first look at the production below!
In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play is set in a spa town in the vicinity of New York in the late 1800s. Electricity has just begun to spread its mystifying glow in the homes of the well-to-do. It has recently been installed in the home of Dr. and Mrs. Givings, and more significantly in the other room, the doctor's "operating theater," where he practices gynecology and the treatment of "hysteria" using a newly acquired electronically-powered implement.
In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play is a provocative, funny, touching and beautifully entertaining story about an inventive doctor and his wife. Dr. Givings is obsessed with the marvels of technology and what they can do for his patients. His wife, Catherine, is only a bystander in her husband's world - listening at the door from the next room as he treats his patients. Dr. Givings is not sure exactly how the vibrators help the women he treats - but they keep coming back. The only woman whose problem is not helped by the doctor is his own wife who longs to connect with him - but not electrically. This piece explores the fundamental absence of sympathy and understanding between women and men, and the suspicions and fears surrounding female sexuality and even female fertility.
Director Ellen Douglas Schlaefer, nationally known for her stagings of plays and musicals and her critically acclaimed productions of The Goat and Doubt at Trustus, was put at the helm of this stimulating production. "We are bombarded with such rapid changes in our world brought on by technology," said Schlaefer. "I think the fears that type of change can engender are timeless. I imagine that something as new as electricity was in the 1800's was terrifying. Even today electronic banking scares the hell out of me."
Director Ellen Douglas Schlaefer assembled a fantastic cast of familiar faces from Columbia stages. Playing the inventive Dr. Givings is Trustus Alumni Steve Harley, seen last season as Sam Byck in the lauded Trustus production of Assassins. Trustus Company Member Sumner McLain Bender takes on the role of Mrs. Givings, returning to the stage after her comic work in Workshop's Sealed for Freshness. Trustus Company Members Elena Martinez-Vidal (The Goat, August: Osage County), Ellen Rodillo-Fowler (August: Osage County), and Lonetta Thompson (Gem of the Ocean) return to the Trustus Main Stage for this production - all making their second or third appearance on the Trustus stage this season. Stann Gwynn (The Goat, August: Osage County, Doubt) and Daniel Gainey (Cinderella, Sweeney Todd) round out this highly electric (pardon the pun) cast.
When asked what Columbia audiences could expect from this production, Director Ellen Douglas Schlaefer said "The title provokes nervous twitters (see, even the word ‘twitter' makes you think of something completely different from what it did 5 years ago!). We are hoping to present a physical world of over a century ago, a world where electricity offers all sorts of release! The piece is funny, touching - and there are surprises without violence or blood." Undoubtedly, this production promises to offer Trustus patrons a unique story with lots of laughs while still being full of heart.
In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play opens on the Trustus Main Stage on Friday, May 4th at 8:00pm and runs through Saturday, May 26th, 2012. Shows on Thursdays start at 7:30pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00pm, and Sundays at 3:00pm. Tickets are $20 on Thursdays, $22.50 on Fridays & Saturdays, and $17.50 on Sundays. Half-price student tickets are available 15 minutes prior to every curtain.
Trustus Theatre is located at 520 Lady Street, behind the Gervais St. Publix. Parking is available on Lady St. and on Pulaski St. The Main Stage entrance is located on the Publix side of the building.
For more information or reservations call the box office Tuesdays through Saturdays 1-6 pm at 803-254-9732. Visit www.trustus.org for all show information and season info.
See photos from the production below!
Photo credit: Jonathan Sharpe