Sunday, April 3, 2011

In the Next Room or the vibrator play

 Dr Givings at work

In the Next Room, or the vibrator play, seen at the Wilma Theater at 265 S Broad St. in Philadelphia was nominated for both the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and The Tony Award for Best Play and one need only to see it to understand why. Set in New York in the 1880’s, the Victorian mores of the characters not only give comedic value to the production’s first act which carries over into its second act, but bring a sense of Greek tragedy as well when, at one point, it seems as if no one is going to be satisfied by what life has meted out to them. Jeremiah Wiggins is a very convincing Dr Givings, whose life work is to perform “electricity experiments” on hysterical patients. He is so involved with the success of his vibrator treatments on others that he is oblivious to his wife and her needs. The “hysterical” and demure Mrs. Daldry, played by Kate Czajkowski, does not want to admit recovery for fear of losing her “treatments”. The wet-nurse Elizabeth, played by Opal Alladin gave a brilliant monologue near the end of the play in which she displayed the heart-wrenching  pull of caring for another’s child after losing one of her own. Far and away the most empathetic character was Catherine Givings, played by Mairin Lee. Married to the doctor who satisfied all his patients but refused to satisfy her, she was lonely and despondent, not only because of his stubbornness, but because of her lack of ability to connect with her child. The audience cheered her resilience. Costume designer Oana Botes-Ban did a wonderful job in creating period costumes as the characters were frequently dressing and undressing and had many pieces of clothing to share with the audience. Alexis Distler did an outstanding job with the set design. The theatre was transformed into salon style seating on both sides of the stage to allow the audience to observe the intimate relationships in the play. A door separated the doctor’s office from the living quarters of the home and a small desk designated the doctor’s working space away from patients. The décor set the mood of the late 19th century. Barrymores are on the horizon for both of these designers.This play is sure to return to the Philadelphia area in a year or two.  If you haven’t seen it, or even if you have, make sure you plan to see it when it comes back.

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