Sarah Ruhl’s naughty and fascinating play, In the Next Room, Or the Vibrator Play, has finally made its way to Broadway. Sadly, I live in the opposite, dirt-and-cactus-covered corner of our nation and don’t foresee any whimsical trips to NYC in my future. But if I did live in NYC, I would immediately go see this play; if you do live in NYC, please, go see this play.
In spite of my Wild West blues, I’ve conjured up a few things from The New York Times review.
Ruhl’s idiosyncratic style shines through in her portrayal of late 19th century relationships. Basically, one crazy and eccentric wife stumbles into the doctor’s office with her manly, overly concerned (about his own well-being) husband. The husband begs the doc to fix his wife’s ailments and the doctor brings her into the next room where he keeps his newly constructed electrified wand (the world’s first vibrator). Miraculously she gets better. The play goes on with a myriad of female ailments that can be fixed with an orgasm, lesbian relationships, and a few different subplots exploring the problems in male and female communication and appreciation.
This play interests me because the subject matter is extremely relevant as well as racy, however parts of it seem contradicting. The husbands that enter the doctor’s office are masterfully oblivious to their wives’ needs for sexual pleasure, and the play shamelessly exploits their naiveté. It also luxuriates in the notion that orgasms are not only therapeutic, but also essential (for both genders). The New York Times states:
“The heady sensations aroused in the characters are considered by all involved to be therapeutic rather than erotic. Application of that electrified wand in the doctor’s hand may inspire shuddering moans, guttural cries and exhortations to God, but the instrument is considered by patient and doctor alike to be no more naughty than a stethoscope.”
This sounds hilarious, as well as an important topic of discourse. But then the review goes on to explain how these women are portrayed as eccentric and batty until they receive a little therapeutic pleasure down there. Ugh, that stereotype really bugs me, more than others. I can almost hear ex-boyfriends howling you’re acting crazy and it’s giving me the heebee jeebees. The play has received mixed reviews due to Ruhl’s quirky brilliance combined with a questionable lack of true feminist values.
This is all very sad because when it comes down to it, I haven’t seen the play. So please, go see this play and tell me how it is. Tell me how it’s a liberating feminist masterpiece and I must fly to New York to see it. Or, tell me how it’s horribly frustrating and lacking in gumption and insight. Either way, you’ll have a good time and I’ll be here, wishing I were there.